Clinical Negligence & the Law
Usually, people think of medical professionals such as doctors and nurses as providers of only the best quality of care and bedside manner, but this is not always the case. In the majority of events, medical professionals do provide excellent service for their patients, but sometimes things can go wrong, as they can in any other aspect of life.
This is essentially the definition of clinical negligence. It occurs when you, as a patient, have been failed by your carers. Whether this is through a chance accident, a mistaken diagnosis or a general lack of care, if a medical professional has breached his or her duty of care, this is known as clinical negligence.
If you (or a close friend or relative) are the victim of clinical negligence, it’s only natural to feel angry and upset, and it can leave you wanting some sort of explanation, apology or even compensation.
Unfortunately, because it is hard to prove, and because the case will be taken against the medical service as a whole, any court cases regarding clinical negligence tend to be costly and drawn out, and a win is rare.
What Should I Do?
Firstly, you should take a step back from the situation and calm down. This can be difficult, but you need to remove any emotional impact from the case and look at it analytically. It can be tempting to get angry and demand compensation for any injury you’ve incurred, but it’s important to not let that cloud your mind – if it’s very minor or just hard to prove, you’re unlikely to receive anything.
If you feel as though an explanation is all you need, this is much more easily achieved. Simply contact the hospital or professional involved and ask for a face to face chat. Doctors don’t want to make mistakes; by their profession they are care givers. You will usually receive a full explanation for whatever happened, and often a sincere apology.
If you’re finding it difficult to get in touch with the people responsible, pick up the phone and talk to PALS – the Patient Advice and Liaison Service, they should be able to help.
If, however, you have set your mind on trying to win some compensation, read on.
Taking It to Court
Firstly, you might wish to talk to some professionals. Speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau, then contact a solicitor who specialises in medical negligence. Some of these are no-win no-fee, but the majority will at least offer a free consultation.
Some medical cases have taken up to ten years to even come to court, and even then are exceedingly difficult to win. You need to conclusively prove that the medical professional was at fault, as well as the fact that you have been damaged in some way by the outcome, whether physically or psychiatrically. The first can be difficult to prove, but if you’ve had your kidney removed when it should have been your appendix (for example) then it’s clearly a case of clinical negligence.
You should only pursue litigation if you have good reason to do so. If you have incurred great financial loss or lifestyle change, or if a young child has lost a parent, or if you end up needing expensive treatment for the duration of your lifetime; these are all good reasons.
Because court cases involving the medical profession are so costly – in terms of time, money and stress – you have to make sure it is definitely what you want to do before you set the ball in motion.