Malpractice and medical negligence is something that just about everybody needs to be aware of, given that nearly everybody will have cause to contact a doctor or receive some kind of medical treatment in their lives.
While there are efforts to ensure that healthcare standards exist to see that everybody receives the kind of treatment they deserve and expect from medical professionals, unfortunately, medical negligence claims are still relatively common in the UK. One study in 2016 based on research done for medical journal papers, showed that around half of UK medical negligence claims do result in a compensation payout for the patient. But what are the most common types of medical malpractice claims that people contact medical negligence solicitors about in Britain, and what do you as a patient need to know about them?
For a medical malpractice or negligence claim to be successful, the patient needs to prove that not only was the service they received negligent in terms of the treatment they were given or the diagnosis and testing that they received, but also that this resulted in loss or injury to themselves. When it can be shown that the injury or loss sustained was unlikely to have occurred had the medical practitioners acted in line with standards, then it is usually the case that the patient will be owed compensation. In cases where the patient loses their life as a result of medical malpractice, the compensation would be sought by their estate. The most common cause of successful medical malpractice claims, therefore, is missed diagnosis of serious conditions. Cancers are particularly high on the list, as are heart conditions.
Other common health problems that can result in serious complications if not diagnosed soon enough such as diabetes can also be subject to these kinds of claims. In children, there is also a high percentage of medical malpractice claims where missed diagnoses of cancer and other serious illnesses are the cause.
For a missed diagnosis to be deemed malpractice it would have to be that the physician that the patient sought care from was at fault by not performing the diagnostic tests that would normally be done, or by not recognising the need to investigate the patient’s symptoms further. It can also be that tests usually recommended to someone with specific symptoms were not performed. Missed diagnosis would not be a medical malpractice issue in cases where all of the standard tests were done but the illness did not show up, or where the patient did not seek medical advice. Naturally, not all illnesses can be diagnosed in time for treatment to be most effective, but it is only malpractice when everything that would usually be done for a patient was not done and this led to the condition being missed.
Pregnancy and Birth-Related Medical Negligence
Another of the most common causes of medical negligence UK legal claims relates to cases where care during pregnancy and childbirth is deemed to have not been up to standards, and this has resulted in problems for the mother, baby or both.
Because pregnancy itself is a very complex physical state, the mother needs to be cared for to the expected standards throughout or preventable complications can arise. During labour it can also be possible for negligence to occur and lead to preventable injury to the mother.
When problems occur due to negligence during pregnancy it can be possible for the child to have lifelong conditions like cerebral palsy, and in these types of cases, the medical negligence claim can be very high as it can need to cover lifelong care and other factors like loss of potential earnings. Negligence that leads to preventable miscarriage or harms the mother in a way that impacts her ongoing fertility is also usually subject to claims for high amounts of compensation.
The most well-publicized cases involving medical negligence lawyers tend to be those where something highly unusual or troubling has occurred, usually in surgery. Examples can be patients being given the wrong surgery altogether or having surgical items left inside them. Surgical Errors don’t always make for such strange stories though, this kind of medical negligence also covers things like organs being injured during surgery on other nearby organs.
As you might expect, surgical errors are almost always significant enough to cause injury to the patient and can mean further surgery is needed, so these tend to be more ‘cut and dried’ for medical negligence solicitors than things like misdiagnoses.
A fourth common kind of malpractice in medicine related to prescriptions for medications. If a patient is injured or is put at risk due to being prescribed the wrong drug or dosage or given the wrong advice about how to take their medicine, this would be grounds for a malpractice claim. Another situation where this might happen is where a patient is prescribed a medication that contains something they have a known allergy to.
As with all other kinds of medical negligence, a claim will only be taken seriously if the doctor actually neglected their responsibility to check certain things. If a patient has an allergic reaction to medicine but the allergy was previously unknown or not on their medical records or told to the doctor, this wouldn’t be a negligence situation, nor would a patient suffering severe but known side effects.
In some cases, a drug itself can be problematic and this is a completely different legal issue to negligence on the part of the doctor who prescribed it.
What To Do If You Think You’ve Been A Victim of Medical Negligence
If you believe you have suffered harm or risk because of medical negligence, then the first thing you need to do is find the best medical negligence solicitors in your area. Some firms such as The Medical Negligence Experts will offer their services on a no win no fee basis, which is a common choice for people who are more unsure about the chances of winning their claim. You should arrange a free consultation to talk over your case and bring with you all the records you can, including names and dates and any specifics like prescriptions or assessments by other doctors after the negligence event.
Your solicitors will be able to use your evidence and what you tell them to determine if you have a case, though they may have to go away and do some extra investigations to give a firm answer. You can, of course, seek opinions from more than one solicitor before deciding to move forward on the claim with one.
Many law firms who specialize in medical malpractice UK law will offer a no win no fee option, should you prefer to take the case forward without having to fund your legal representation until your compensation is won. This can make it possible for people who would not otherwise be able to afford to make a claim to do so and is well worth looking into if legal costs are putting you off applying for the compensation you think you are owed.
Medical negligence is something that can happen with both the NHS and private healthcare practitioners, and while it is fairly rare, it is important that people who have been affected do exercise their legal rights both so that they get the compensation they need and so that medical practices can improve.