Medical Procedures Gone Wrong
Life is full of uncertainties. We cant always predict what is in store for us, or protect ourselves from unforseen accidents. Such is life.
When it comes to health, we tend to rely on the advice of the medical professionals. As we should. Unfortunately, injuries sometimes occur following the advice or actions of a health professional. And occasionally, those injuries could and should have been predicted and prevented.
Weve all heard horror stories; of the wrong leg being amputated, or a surgical tool being left inside a patients body. Many of us are following the trial of Patel, the doctor at Bundaberg Base Hospital who, among other things, needlessly removed part of a patients healthy bowel.
While those are extreme examples, it is not that uncommon for patients to suffer poor treatment within the medical system.
Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, incorrect treatment, failure to warn about potential side effects of medication, and problems resulting from botched surgeries, are just some examples of carelessness on the part of healthcare providers. The law in Australia is designed to protect us from this kind of carelessness.
Its called medical negligence.
In the eyes of the law, any healthcare provider who doesnt provide a reasonable standard of care, can be found negligent when a patient is injured. That includes hospitals, doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists and chiropractors, among others.
But it’s not always easy to win a medical negligence claim and commencing court proceedings is often unavoidable. Healthcare providers are covered by medical malpractice insurance, and insurers are usually pretty keen to pay as little in compensation as possible. Plus, hospitals and doctors often have their own legal representation, who vigorously defend their claims.
To win, you have to prove that the healthcare provider departed from proper professional standards and should have foreseen that their actions would lead to the injury. Since the law changed in 2002, this has become harder to do. Now, a medical professional can’t be found negligent if it can be shown that other medical professionals would have acted similarly in that situation.
In other words, if legal defence teams produce a few other doctors who say they agree with what the doctor did, you may not win if the judge accepts those opinions.
One of the hardest things to prove in a medical negligence case is what loss or damage was actually caused by the health providers negligence. For example, if a doctor failed to diagnose cancer, you would have to prove that the delay actually made some difference to the medical treatment that was needed, or the medical prognosis.
That said, its worth getting legal advice, even if the mistake made by the doctor was only a small one. The compensation amount is based on the seriousness of the injury, not the level of negligence. And many law firms wont charge you unless you win your case.
According to Cathy Pares, medical negligence specialist at Stacks Law Firm in Taree, This
is a complicated area of law so you really need specialist advice. Time limits apply so don’t delay seeking advice even if you’re still having treatment or if you’re hoping that your medical condition will improve”.