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What Constitutes Medical Negligence?

Posted on Thursday 4th January 2018 by David Simpson

Medical Negligence2

In the broadest sense, medical negligence (or clinical negligence) is when a medical professional or medical institute is in breach of the legal duty of care it owes to an individual – the patient.

Medical negligence can be almost anything where an individual or a process has resulted in a patient coming to harm.

When thinking of medical negligence failed or unnecessary operations spring to mind for many, but in truth – although a frequent cause of claim – this isn’t the most common form. Reports vary on what kind of medical negligence occupies the top spot, but misdiagnosis and birth related negligence feature highly.

Others include negligent medical advice and medication errors.

However, it is important to understand that just because you or a member of your family has endured an unsuccessful operation or experienced a poor outcome from treatment that does not mean you are the victim of medical negligence.

Nothing is a certainty and there is always an inherent risk in any medical procedure. Essentially it is the difference between an operation not having the desired outcome and the operation being performed below an acceptable standard. One does not necessarily beget the other.

Do I Have a Case?

This entirely depends on the circumstances under which you or your family member sustained the injury.

Injuries and fatalities are not uncommon in hospitals but are not necessarily the result of negligence. Outbreaks of infectious diseases can cause loss of life and may be due to negligence but it isn’t an absolute.

Although you would be well within your rights to make a formal complaint, it may not constitute medical negligence. However the conclusion of the complaint may prove different.

Essentially, you have 3 years from the time of the incident or from when you noticed the injury to make a claim, so you and your family will have plenty of time to decide how to proceed. In the case of a fatality you have 3 years from the date of death to make a claim, and if you were a child when the incident occurred you have until your 21st birthday to file your claim.

What Constitutes Medical Negligence?

Understanding what is – legally speaking – medical negligence will help you determine if you have a case and whether or not it is worth speaking to a medical negligence solicitor about how they can help.

We have listed some of the most common forms of medical negligence and what action – or lack of action – can be grounds for a claim:

Surgical Negligence

It is important to stress that the NHS performs millions of successful operations every year, however mistakes are occasionally made and the result can be regrettably life changing.

Common types of surgical negligence can include:

  • Poor surgical performance
  • The wrong operation being performed
  • Organ perforation during the procedure
  • Foreign objects being left inside the body
  • The wrong part of the body being operated on
  • Infection caused by poor hygiene/unsterilized equipment

Birth Injuries

No parent could contemplate the agony of harm coming to their baby, but for some that’s precisely what they have to face. Whilst not all birth (or pregnancy) injuries are fatal, they can still do serious harm to mother and/or baby if undiagnosed or improperly treated.

That can mean painful and drawn out recovery or worse. Such claims may include:

  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Uterine Rupture
  • Wrongful Birth Cases (failed sterilization or vasectomy)
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Second or Third Degree Tears
  • Forceps Delivery
  • Episiotomy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Delay or failure to perform a caesarean section

Misdiagnosis

The strain on GPs and other medical professionals is rarely out of the media spotlight. The reason for this is quite simple: the time pressures they are under cause more and more misdiagnoses.

In 2009 the Daily Telegraph claimed the instances were as high as 1 in 6 patients were misdiagnosed. The Daily Mail, in 2015, stated misdiagnosis costs the NHS £4 million a week in compensation.

Whether or not either statement is true is up for debate, but here are the common grounds for a misdiagnosis claim:

  • When an illness or condition is missed entirely by the medical professional – this can be on a single occasion or multiple occasions.
  • An incorrect diagnosis – regardless of whether or not this leads to incorrect treatment
  • Failure of a GP to refer in time and to an appropriate specialist
  • Failure to conduct appropriate investigations, X-rays and other scans
  • Failing to report on or misreporting scans and test results

If you believe you or a family member has been the victim of medical negligence you should seek legal advice from a specialist solicitor as soon as possible.

It’s important to remember that not every case will be strong enough to take to court, and when that’s apparent a trustworthy solicitor will always be honest with you.

To learn more about how to make a Medical Negligence claim contact us today to speak to one of our specialist solicitors.

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