What is medical negligence?
The definition of medical negligence in Australia is mostly standardised across the country, with slight differences between states and territories. However, the general definition of medical negligence is defined as when a healthcare professional fails to take reasonable care or steps to prevent loss or injury to a patient.
While every case is different, there are four main principles that must be proven in order for a healthcare professional to be found negligent:
1. That the healthcare professional had a duty of care towards to patient,
2. That the healthcare professional breached this duty of care by not meeting the required standard of care,
3. That the patient experienced an injury or loss that a reasonable healthcare practitioner would have been able to foresee,
4. That the injury or loss was caused by the breach of duty.
What are the top 5 most common examples of medical negligence?
Misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis
If a misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis has occured as a result of medical negligence by a healthcare professional, then the patient may have the right to pursue a case against them. Some commonly misdiagnosed conditions include cancer, diabetes, stroke, pulmonary embolism and meningitis. If this has led to serious injury, and illness or the inability to pursue timely treatment then the patient may have the right to claim compensation.
Prescription and medication errors
Healthcare professionals have a duty of care to prescribe the right medication and dosage. Prescription and medication errors can lead to serious consequences resulting in damage to the body, allergic reaction or even death. Some common errors include prescribing the wrong medicine, dispensing medicine that a patient is allergic to or advising prescribing the wrong dosage.
Prenatal or childbirth mistakes
A common form of medical negligence is during a woman’s pregnancy, particularly overlooking birth defects or that the mother is suffering from a serious condition that may affect the pregnancy. If this has come about due to a healthcare professional’s negligence then a patient may pursue compensation for physical or psychological damage.
Hospitals are supposed to be clean, sterile facilities where patients are treated safely. However, it is possible that unsanitary conditions lead to hospital-acquired infections, such as staph infections, MRSA or pneumonia, in which case the patient may have a case for legal action.
Another common example of medical negligence are errors made during surgery such as operating on the wrong side, performing the wrong procedure, damage to the body, failure to follow proper infection control procedures etc. If a mistake was made during surgery and it resulted in illness or injury then the patient may be able to pursue a case for medical negligence.