Sunday, 23 January 2011

What is Clinical/Medical Negligence?

Doctors and nurses are generally regarded as providing excellent, caring service for their patients. Nevertheless, if you, your spouse or child, have been injured, or if you are the dependant or child of a patient who died, as a result of medical treatment you are, at the very least, entitled to an explanation. A treating doctor, in fact, is required by his governing body, the General Medical Council to inform a patient when that treatment has gone wrong.

Where the injury or death was caused or contributed to by the breach of a duty of care committed in the course of the provision of clinical or medical services, including dental or nursing services, you and/or your child may be entitled to financial compensation for what is termed "clinical negligence", formerly – and often still – described as “medical negligence”.

Personal injuries, including brain damage and psychological injury such as nervous shock, or death can occur in all clinical specialities.

Medical claims can arise out of, for example, accident and emergency, anaesthetics, cancer treatment, cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology, gastroenterology, general practice, keyhole surgery, mental health, neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, paediatrics, plastic surgery, psychiatry, radiology, sterilisation, urology, vascular surgery and many more.

Doctors have been found in breach of a duty of care for, among other things, failed or delayed diagnosis, failure to warn of risks in treatment, failure to obtain proper consent to treatment, medication errors, careless surgical procedures, delayed referral to specialists. Negligence can also arise out of system errors in the hospital where the treatment took place. Most cases concern registered medical practitioners (doctors and surgeons). But similar principles apply to dentists, midwives, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.

New issues are constantly arising, for example, the retention of organs and tissues following post-mortems, use of unsterilised instruments, early failure of replacement hips, misinterpreted breast screening and cervical smear testing, liability for hospital-acquired infections. Clinical negligence can overlap with another area where litigation has expanded in the last two decades: consumer safety involving product liability for drugs and vaccines, for example, where a general practitioner is accused of administering an inoculation despite contra-indications.

A claim against a medical professional for injuries arising out of a medical accident is completely different from a claim for personal injuries caused in, say, a road traffic accident. In the latter case it is usually straightforward to establish whether or not somebody was at fault and whether any injuries were suffered as a result. But to succeed in a clinical negligence claim you must prove, through the evidence of medical experts qualified in the speciality concerned, that, on a balance of probabilities (ie, it was more probable than not)

(1) that there were serious errors in your medical treatment which no competent doctor would have made; and

(2) that those errors caused, or materially contributed to, the injury you are complaining of.

At MJP we have experts who can help and advise in this field. We have over 30 years of experience in handling cases of this type.  We will be happy to provide a FREE initial consultation. Call Sara on 01603877000 or email Sara at

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