LIKE THE REST OF US, DOCTORS AND HOSPITALS MAKE MISTAKES!

The Medical Profession’s culture of denial and shame keeps Doctors from talking about mistakes or using them to learn and improve. Injured Patients and their Families are often put through an unnecessary ordeal to establish liability and responsibility. There is a saying that “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. If the Medical Profession takes on board the lessons to be learned from being called to account for medical negligence, this will be a catalyst for reform and service improvement.

Our daily newspapers are replete with reports of Medical Malpractice actions many of which relate to deficiencies in aftercare rather than in the operations or procedures themselves. Every conceivable incident of negligence has occurred and many continue to occur. While for the interested Legal Professional or Academic Observer these cases are extremely interesting, the sad fact is that behind each case lies a life that is irreparably changed and sometimes ruined. It is only in calling Medical Professionals to account that beneficial reforms can be assured. The deficiencies are often systematic rather than attributable to any one individual.

Mounting a successful Medical Negligence Claim is challenging and experienced Legal expertise is called for. At O’SHEA RUSSELL we have been pursuing claims for over 20 years in a range of actions covering issues as diverse as MRSA infection, diagnosis errors, failure to act, negligent laser eye surgery, pregnancy related injuries, negligent drug administration, failure to adequately inform of risks inherent in medical procedures, issues surrounding drug administration, failure to secure Informed Patient Consent etc.

The first step in an action is often an analysis of Medical Records to include GP Notes, Hospital Records and Clinical Notes. The Patient File is analysed with precision to include all Clinical Notes, Nursing Notes, Cardex, Blood Pressure/ Heart/ Temperature Charts, Fluid Intake Chart, Drug Administration Charts, Surgeon’s Operation Notes, Anesthetic Records and Recovery Room Records.

As with all Litigation, of course, time is of the essence and Proceedings must be initiated within two (2) years of the injury or date on which the injured party becomes aware of a connection between the injuries and the matters believed to have caused the injuries. Cases arising out of the death of a Patient must be initiated within one (1) year.

In a 2014 column in the Irish Times, the writer, Ms Sarah Reid, referred to the “slow dance of Litigation in Medical Negligence Cases” commenting on the fact that such cases will often be met with denial and defensiveness which has to be “broken down” over time by the injured party’s Legal Team. Interestingly, Ms. Reid observed that “the conduct of events is dictated by Insurers and neither families nor doctors are well served by it”.

Judge Mary Irvine in a High Court Action in November 2013 commented on what she perceived as the unacceptable position being repeatedly taken by the HSE in choosing to defend cases to the bitter end even when the likely course of events is been clear from early on. She emphasised the lack of focus on “the humanity, the dignity, the communication and empathy with the Patient”.
The very interesting case of Richard O’ Callaghan -v- Frank Dowling saw Judge O’ Neill summarise with approval the test for Medical Negligence as set out in the Dunne Case. Essentially, a comparison is made with the likely actions of a Practitioner of comparable qualification. An analysis will also be undertaken as to whether there is any inherent defect or deficiency in the procedure itself.

As already indicated, the potential areas where Medical Negligence can arise are far too extensive to cover in a single blog. These areas include failure to diagnose or treat serious physical illness, failure to diagnose or treat mental illness, failure to secure fully informed consent from a patient, failure to carry out an operation properly, significant deficiencies in post-operative care, delay in treatment, poor childbirth procedures with sometimes devastating consequences, issues surrounding administration of drugs, allowing patients to be exposed to MRSA or other infection, hospital system error etc.

Medical Malpractice is not just an Irish issue; it is a universal issue. All of us play a role in ensuring that standards are continuously reviewed and improved and, where possible, that systems are perfected.

In contentious business a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement

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