Being a victim of medical negligence can be a devastating experience. Not only does it create unnecessary pain and suffering, but it also destroys the trust we invest in medical practitioners and their duty of care towards us. Doctors, dentists, midwives and chiropractors do a generally magnificent job in caring for our health, but there are the times when the standard of care we receive falls below an accepted standard and leads to medical negligence. In Ireland when a case of medical negligence results in an injury, or the deterioration of an existing condition, you are entitled to claim compensation.
Instances of medical negligence in Ireland are hard to quantify, as the Health and Safety Executive decline to publish statistics. However, based on figures released in other European countries, an estimated 4% of all patients treated in registered medical establishments suffer some form of medical negligence. In Ireland, where over four million people each year use the health services for one reason or another, that would mean that more than 160,000 people sustain an injury due to medical negligence – more than the number of people injured each year in road traffic accidents.
These figures are all the more disconcerting when it is revealed – again in statistics from autopsy studies elsewhere around the globe – that as many as 23% of fatal diseases are misdiagnosed. One would like to hope that medical negligence in Ireland is not as prevalent as these figures may suggest it is, but even one incidence of medical negligence is one too many when it happens to you or a loved one.
What Constitutes Medical Negligence in Ireland
Medical negligence in Ireland is defined as the failure of a registered medical practitioner to meet the standards of conduct acceptable for duties relating to the medical profession. Those standards are based on what a reasonable person with the requisite knowledge and skills would or would not do. This includes cases of misdiagnosis, the failure to communicate risks involved in a surgical procedure to a patient and inappropriate care management, as well as any errors that may occur during a medical procedure.
The most common examples of medical negligence in Ireland are misdiagnosis. Although this is usually believed to happen in the doctor’ s surgery and concern cases of breast, lung and colon cancer, there are a number of instances that occur in accident and emergency departments of hospitals – particularly when young children are brought in with appendicitis and meningitis. Even though with these potentially life threatening diseases, the “injury” was already present, the misdiagnosis which allows the condition to deteriorate is still regarded as medical negligence in Ireland.
Medical negligence in Ireland is not confined to hospitals. Any place where a medical practitioner looks after your health and so provides a duty of care to a patient, can be the venue for medical negligence. This includes dentists, chiropractors, opticians and even when being attended to in your own home. Medical negligence in Ireland occurs when you sustain an injury, or a deterioration in your condition, which is due to a medical practitioner demonstrating a lack of care – whether that lack of care was due to a lack of skill or a failure to apply it.
Claiming for Medical Negligence in Ireland
If you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence in Ireland, you can claim compensation from the medical practitioner through their medical insurance company, the practice or hospital for which they work, or the Health and Safety Executive. For your claim to be successful, it will have to be shown that the actions – or lack of them – taken by your medical practitioner caused an injury to you and were avoidable at the time they happened. For example, if you have been to the dentist and had a healthy tooth removed, you (via your solicitor and a medical expert) would have to demonstrate that the removal of the tooth caused you pain and was unnecessary.
Because decisions about medical negligence in Ireland are judged on the basis of medical opinion, compensation claims for medical negligence in Ireland are determined by the courts rather than the Injuries Board Ireland. A specialised personal injury claims solicitor will be able to guide you through the procedures and provide a relevant medical expert, (who will need to examine you or your loved one to ascertain the degree of your injury and the extent of the medical negligence that caused it). Your solicitor and the medical expert will work together in court to show that the treatment you received did not meet the accepted standards of conduct for duties relating to the medical profession, and that you suffered as a result.
One of the major handicaps when claiming compensation for medical negligence in Ireland is the time that is available to compile and present a case in court before it becomes “time-barred”. The Statute of Limitations allows up to two years from the “date of knowledge” of medical negligence in which to make a claim for medical negligence in Ireland. Gaining access to case notes and medical records can take many months and the medical expert most relevant to your case may not be immediately available, so the length of time needed to prepare a case for medical negligence can be protracted.
So it is in your best interests to speak with an experienced personal injury claims solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity once you believe that you have been the victim of medical negligence in Ireland. To facilitate this, we have opened a free medical negligence advice service, which you can call for professional advice. The number to call is 1800 989 995, and the service is manned by an experienced personal injury claims solicitor able to answer any questions you may have in respect of making a claim for medical negligence compensation on Ireland.
Our lines are open from 8.00am to 10.00pm, seven days a week, and all calls to our free medical negligence advice service are treated in total confidentiality. Furthermore, by using this service, you are not obliged to make a claim for medical negligence, and no pressure will be put on you to do so. We also offer a call-back service, so if now is not a convenient time for you to speak with us, please complete your details in the form on the right of the page and one of our team will be back in touch with you.