The concept of accountability is one which is familiar to all health professionals. For health professionals such changes mean that the law has become part of their role and is an everyday concern. Health professionals have concerns about who is responsible when a patient suffers harm. In a legal context there is no distinction between responsibility and accountability. Health professionals are accountable to society for issues that are in the public interest. When dealing with accountability to society the discharge of such accountability rests with the criminal courts. The kind of sanctions that may be imposed by the criminal courts include: custodial sentence – imprisonment, fine and community-based sentences. Civil law is not about punishment, unlike the criminal process. If a patient is injured as a result of negligent treatment the patient may seek financial compensation through the civil courts. A health professional may be referred by a judge following a civil court hearing.