Medical negligence is also known as both clinical negligence and medical malpractice, and it refers to cases in which a medical professional has failed in his or her duty of care towards a patient, or, in layman’s terms, makes a mistake which has a negative impact on the patient. Recently cited as the 6th largest single cause of death in the United States, it is clearly a widespread problem.
Obviously, it is not in the best interests of your doctor or nurse to make a mistake, and they are usually known for their outstanding dedication to patient service, incorporating the best methods of health care with the friendliest bedside manner. But mistakes, as in any other area of life, do happen – a hospital is no exception!
If you, or perhaps a close friend or relative of yours, have suffered from medical negligence, and you are looking to do something about it, there are a few routes you can take, depending on what exactly you want to get out of it.
I Want an Explanation or Apology
Of course, if someone has made a mistake and caused you or a loved one harm, it is only natural to feel angry and upset, and to be left wanting an explanation for what went wrong. It’s also pretty normal to expect an apology for the damage done, an admission of culpability.
If this is what you’re after, it is normally fairly simple – just get in touch with the hospital (or other medical institution) that houses the person responsible, and ask if you can meet for a face to face chat. Any medical professional will hate making mistakes, so will usually be more than willing to give you an explanation, but if you have difficulty getting hold of them, there are other steps you can take.
You can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice, but perhaps more useful is PALS – the Patient Advice and Liaison Service. They should be able to put you in contact with the person you need to speak to.
You could also write to the NHS Complaints Procedure – by detailing exactly what went wrong, you may be able to prevent further occurrences.
I Want Compensation
First off, go to your local Citizens Advice Bureau; they will be able to tell you whether your case has a leg to stand on. Your next stop should be a no win no fee medical lawyer – a free initial consultation will explain the risks and likely outcome of your case, and whether or not they’ll take you on. More information on how this works is available on www.lawyers4patients.co.uk.
The main problem with going to court is that cases taken up against the medical profession are well-known for being incredibly difficult to win; the reasons for this should be fairly self-explanatory. The case is likely to drag on a bit, so try and get as much advice from your solicitors as possible.
Some cases will be more likely to win compensation than others – a child losing a mother, for example, or an injury that causes permanent life impairment. If you want to go to court, make sure you think it through thoroughly, but be quick: the limitation period is three years.
Blog post written by Jake Rolin helping patients with medical negligence.