Medical Negligence in Ireland: An Overview

The medical negligence act of 2005 was enacted to assist medical practitioners to perform their professional duty more efficiently and safely. In the medical industry, medical negligence is considered an offense; medical practitioners are responsible for every aspect that causes the loss to patients. Any medical practitioner who is found guilty of medical negligence has to face strict punishments from the law. The medical system of Ireland is divided into the public and private sectors; these two sectors have been expanding day by day with the increasing number of people who avail of medical services. A survey conducted in 2013-14 showed that around 82% of persons were satisfied with their medical treatment while only 18% had some issues. However, there are still certain factors that make citizens go through inadequate medical service at some points.Medical negligence law covers personal injury owing to the negligence of a medical professional. This type of negligence can come from a nurse, doctor or other medical organization or professional.

What are medical negligence claims?

Medical negligence claims are a form of personal injury claim that involves ongoing treatment. For example, there would be medical negligence in cases where the patient should have had an operation but it was delayed due to the surgeon missing appointments or failing to make them at all.

In contrast, someone who has suffered a one-off injury – such as being involved in a traffic accident – will not have grounds for bringing a case for medical negligence although they may still be able to bring a claim under the normal personal injury rules.

What kinds of circumstances give rise to medical negligence?

Medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care, and if they fail in this duty by making mistakes during treatment that results in harm then they can be held liable for damages.

There are a number of circumstances that can give rise to a medical negligence claim including:

-Doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer on a yearly basis.

-The wrong operation is being performed or the wrong diagnosis made.

-Failure to carry out sufficient checks before carrying out surgery and in fact, operating on the wrong patient (which happened more commonly prior to the invention of DNA testing).

-Inadequate aftercare or supervision of patients.

-Inadequate treatment (for example, the incorrect dose of medication being administered).

-Improper sterilization procedures.

-An error with regards to record-keeping impacts upon a diagnosis being made or the provision of adequate post-operative care for example.

-Delay in administering life-saving surgical procedures on an emergency patient due to long waiting lists at A&E departments and understaffing.

Who can claim compensation for negligence?

To bring a claim for medical negligence, you must have suffered personal injury as a direct consequence of your doctor’s wrongdoing and/or his/her breach of duty. You must also be able to demonstrate that it is likely that the doctor’s wrongdoing/breach of duty caused your injury.

What is medical misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis occurs where a doctor fails to make the correct diagnosis, for example by missing signs of a condition or not ordering appropriate tests. In some cases, this can be down to human error – for instance if your GP does not notice that you have been getting consistently high blood pressure when you see him/her every month. In other cases, there could be a failure to investigate further or refer on for example in the case of cancer – perhaps the symptoms were simply not recognized.

Some other examples of misdiagnosis include:

-Where a patient who is suffering from chest pain is diagnosed with heartburn and not the heart attack that he/she actually has.

-Misdiagnosing lung cancer on the basis of a misreading or misunderstanding of results.

-Diagnosing appendicitis when in fact, the sufferer has a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome which can present with similar symptoms.

-A woman is being treated for depression but is actually suffering from postnatal depression (this is quite common).

What are the common medical negligence cases in Ireland?

Various medical conditions can give rise to a claim for compensation for personal injury, including:

-Brain injuries sustained as a result of a head injury or stroke.

-Breast cancer following early detection that is missed resulting in it spreading and becoming incurable.

-Cerebral palsy arising out of an infant being given the wrong dose of medication by doctors when they were born.

-Recurrent miscarriages (three or more) where there has been an insufficient investigation and/or treatment of underlying conditions such as fibroids that are causing them.

-Bone cancer is being missed and therefore not picked up in time.

What are the grounds for making a claim?

To successfully bring a claim you must prove that there was negligence by your doctor or medical professional, which led to damages being suffered by you. You will also be required to show that there is an identifiable link between the negligence and your damages (that is, if you have suffered financial loss as a result of the injury). In order to make a successful claim, you must first report any accident/incident to your GP within three months of it having happened. If your injuries were caused by another person’s wrongdoing then this process can take up to twelve months from when the incident occurred in some cases.

Medical negligence claims

There are many possible ways through which medical negligence can occur.

  • Misdiagnosis: Failure to diagnose a patient properly
  • Birth injury claims: Complications to a mother and/or baby during childbirth
  • Wrong prescription: Failure to prescribe appropriate medications
  • Surgical mistakes: Mistakes made during the application of anesthesia or in the usage of medical equipment
  • Timing issues with treatment: Failure to provide affected and timely treatment

Time frame –How long do I have to take a case?

The statute of limitation is the time limit set for medical negligence claims. The claim must be brought within 2 years from the day of injury or two years from the date of knowledge.

But the limit is inapplicable in a couple of cases listed below:

  • Children: If your child suffers from medical negligence, there is an exception. You can make a claim anytime before they turn 18. After your child turns 18, the general rule applies. Hence a claim must reach the court before they turn 21.
  • Mental ability: The victim must have the ability to make a claim for themselves.
  • Knowledge. If the injury is only discovered sometime later (i.e: after the two-year period, the statute of limitations only starts to run from that date of knowledge).

How to find the solicitor you need?

Many surf the internet and visit the websites of the law firms to find the best medical negligence solicitors in Ireland. This is standard in today’s world  however we strongly recommend you have a no-obligation consultation with the firms you intend to potentially use either by phone or in-person to ensure they have the requisite expertise to take your claim

We pride ourselves on having:

  • Knowledge: Precise knowledge of medical negligence law that is crucial to winning any case.
  • Past experience: Solicitors with experience and success in this field.

Is it necessary to consult with a solicitor while claiming medical negligence?

The answer is yes, you must consult with a solicitor before filing a medical negligence claim in Ireland. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on your case and whether or not it is likely to succeed. He/she will also be able to assist you in the process of making a formal complaint about your doctor’s conduct and liaising with their insurance company.

In conclusion, it can be said that there are various ways to minimize the risk of medical negligence. It is important for patients to remember that they have a right to be treated with proper care and attention by their physician, as well as making sure that they themselves are up-to-date with appointments and follow-up treatment plans. Taking into consideration the above factors will go some way towards improving patient health and reducing the chances of negligence occurring in an Irish hospital or clinic.

If you are unsure about taking legal action against your doctor for medical negligence but want advice as to what might happen if you do decide to take that course of action, go ahead and contact us today through our website.

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