Many South Africans have heard terrifying cases of medical negligence. Reading headlines like: “Couple receives the wrong sperm”, “Doctors sever baby’s head during a C-section”, “Doctor operates on patient’s wrong eye” is enough to scare anyone. But these horrifying cases seem like distance myths until you find yourself in a situation where medical negligence has left you with financial, emotional and/or physical problems to deal with.
South Africa has a high number of birth-related injury claims against government hospitals according to a study by the Free Market Foundation. Up to 50% of children with cerebral palsy in South Africa have this neurological disorder due to birth complications that could have been avoided. Besides the birth cases, people have had their wrong limbs amputated, suffered brain damage and died of something completely different to what they came to the hospital to get treated for.
More and more South Africans are filing claims for medical negligence, but are they succeeding? Do South Africans even know their rights when it comes to this?
Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) can issue fines, suspensions and medical ethics courses for doctors who are found guilty of medical negligence. A suspension can harm a doctor’s career; however, some of the fines that guilty doctors receive are very “light”. Either way, where does this leave victims of medical negligence?
A patient, family member of a patient or medical scheme can make a civil case and take a doctor to court to sue him for damages or take the case to the HPCSA; however, the HPCSA will not provide any help when it comes to compensation for victims as they rather focus on the ethical conduct breach within the profession. If the HPCSA finds a health care practitioner guilty of misconduct, the patient, family member of the patient or medical scheme can make a civil case against the health care practitioner thereafter. Lawyers often discourage going to court for medical negligence unless there is a very valid case against a doctor. The case should prove that the relevant standard of care was not given to a patient and this led to loss, either emotionally, financially or physically.
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If you have experienced any physical or financial loss due to medical negligence, contact Christopher Consulting.