Dr Ian Paterson: Medical Malpractice in the Dock

Posted by Oliver on April 30,2017

An eminent breast surgeon was recently charged and convicted in court for professional medical misconduct.

Dr Ian Paterson, 59, was convicted of carrying out unnecessary breast operations on patients. In most cases, he pressured and urged the women to have invasive, life altering and often unnecessary breast operations citing high risks, or evidence of, breast cancer.

In court, Dr Paterson’s motives were described as “obscure” but may have included desires for the private doctor (who also worked at an NHS hospital) to “earn extra money.” Dr Paterson was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent, in relation to cases involving nine women and one man, in addition to other charges. In the legal proceedings, the women described his behaviour and actions, and how they were subtly pressured into undergoing various surgical procedures. Jurors heard how he exaggerated or invented signs of breast cancer as the trail unfolded.

It was established that the NHS at least had had their concerns about Dr Paterson as far back as 2003 but a proper and full investigation was only carried out in recent years as his victims started coming forward. An earlier 2013 investigation had mostly cleared him. However, Dr Paterson has now been convicted, and struck off the register of the General Medical Council. It was further mentioned that in October 2017, up to 350 of his private patients will seek compensation at the High Court for his medical malpractice.

In their following press statements, both Spire Healthcare, which runs the private hospitals Dr Paterson worked at, and Heart of England NHS Trust, have expressed their regret at Dr Paterson’s actions. Whilst expressing sympathy with his former patients, both were at pains to stress that this was a one-off case of medical malpractice. No doctor or clinician ever seeks to harm their patients; quite the opposite. However, there are those very few cases where procedures, often through simple negligence, or a tiny error or fault, can go wrong. That can leave a patient worse off than they were before, or not tackle an existing condition at all. In those cases, as the October court hearing demonstrates that patients have a right to seek legal and financial compensation for a breach of the medical trust and duty of care that is owed to all patients.

Although extremely rare, it is the tragic and very rare cases of doctors such as Ian Paterson that illustrate that such a system is sadly necessary. No one wants to consider prosecuting or claiming compensation from honest, hardworking, dedicated doctors and nurses – but it is a patient’s right if the standard and nature of medical care is substandard for whatever reason.

Providing certain legal criteria are met, patients can seek compensation for medical malpractice. Talk to our specialist medical negligence lawyers at CompenstionClaims.co today to discuss this, or a potential claim, further.

Medical Compensation Claims & Access to Justice

Posted by Oliver on February 27,2017

Doctors and other medical practitioners are dedicated professionals with many years of experience and training. Despite that, the can and do make mistakes in some cases.

Some patients can suffer quite badly, and for a long time, due to a simple incorrect surgical procedure, a misdiagnosis, or similar.The results of medical negligence can be severe and long lasting.

Medical practitioners have a moral and legal duty of care towards their patients. Under that duty of care, patients have the right to make a claim against the doctor, or the surgery or hospital, in question. The tests under tort law for medical negligence claims are onerous and complex, but there are many legal cases over the last several decades that have furthered and championed patients rights – and also protected doctors and nurses from vexatious (frivolous) litigation.

Recent government plans seemingly are contrary of that right of an injured patient to seek compensation following medical negligence.

Firstly, court fees in many areas – including medical negligence – have risen dramatically to very high levels, often making justice unobtainable for many. Secondly, the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) has often acted in a manner that has stalled justice.

The NHSLA is a not for profit arm of the NHS that resolves legal and other disputes. Often these are between doctors and patients. In many cases, an out of court settlement and agreement can be arrived at. In many other cases, a court hearing (or hearings in complex cases) is necessary. As is only right and proper for a public body, safeguarding the public purse, the NHSLA fights hard to defend the NHS in court.

However, one trick often used by the NHSLA is to drag out litigation for many years. Many of those cases should have been settled right at the beginning, or settled out of court. The result of such long winded litigation is to effectively waste tens of thousands of public money. Further, for this and other matters, the NHSLA has never been investigated or held to account.

Returning to the cases of medical negligence being prosecuted – such delay can often cause even more distress to those patients who have suffered already. Further, in some cases an injury arising from medical negligence may not be worth much in terms of compensation – but setting the case, and getting peace of mind, is worth a lot to the injured patient. Even if the compensation awarded is not that much, surely it is the injured patient’s right to be able to seek and obtain justice

One solution of the government’s is to reduce lawyers’ fees. The flaw here is that the fees from successful cases will often have to be used to settle unsuccessful cases. Therefore, many law firms will be reluctant to take on cases which might otherwise be successful due to that financial element, had many medical negligence lawyers will be driven from the sector by low pay. Together, both of those will result in a shocking denial of justice for many.

To find out more, or to discuss a medical negligence claim, contact our specialist medical negligence lawyers at CompensationClaims.co today.

Medical Negligence : Informed Consent

Posted by Oliver on January 31,2017

Under law, a doctor or healthcare practitioner has a legal duty of care towards their patients, and their health and well-being. When advising a patient as to medical courses of action for treating ailments and injuries, a further legal and medical doctrine comes into effect, that of informed consent.

The leading cases of Sidaway v. Board of Governors of the Bethlem Royal Hospital [1985] AC 871, Chester v Afshar [2004] UKHL 41 and now Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board [2015] UKSC 11 have set out that obligation. Essentially, the doctor must must fully inform and instruct the patient regarding the risks of any procedure, regardless of how small that risk is. The patient must be fully understanding and accepting of the risks of any medical procedure, and must give their consent prior to any procedure being carried out. In the case that the patient is in a coma, or does not have the mental capacity to understand and make an informed decision – there are other medical and legal rules which come into effect.

Under that duty of care, healthcare practitioners must make every effort to ensure that all procedures are carried out in a manner that is as safe to the patient as possible. The patient, however, must accept and understand that there is an element of risk. As times have changed, modern medicine and medical science is ever more advanced, and can treat an increased array of ailments with great success. However, increasingly more and more delicate and intrusive medical procedures are needed. The scope for error with such complicated procedures is still present.

With Montgomery, medical law has caught up with advances in the medical sector, and has set out the principal of informed consent for the 21st Century, according doctors and patients greater legal protection. Such rules have also seen a subtle shift in the doctor / patient relationship.

Despite such legal protections, it is easy for omissions to occur. Without knowing the risks and side affects, a patient cannot give informed consent. A failure of the healthcare practitioner to fully and clearly define the risks of any procedure runs the risk of legal action – especially if something does happen, and the patient suffers accordingly.

Under their medical duty of care, doctors are obliged to set out all and every risk; failure to do that is in breach of that duty of care, and is considered professional negligence. From that, a claim for personal injury can be made against the doctor or healthcare practitioner, as they will held legally liable for that omission and their (implied) negligence.

Informed consent and medical negligence are tricky and specialist areas of personal injury law. However, our lawyers at CompensationClaims.co have many years experience in successfully handling medical negligence claims – including those where there was no informed consent given by the patient.

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