Medical negligence is when a healthcare professional doesn’t act in accordance with an accepted practice, such as you’d expect from a member of a responsible Irish body of medical practitioners.
Of course there are often several different ways to perform a medical procedure, with each doctor or surgeon having their favourite. These differences don’t make for negligence.
Negligence is only considered when the action taken by the healthcare professional isn’t seen as reasonable under the circumstances. Irish law only lets you recover compensation if it’s shown ‘on the balance of probability’ that the treatment was performed negligently and directly caused your injury or illness.
Medicine is a wide field, as we all know, so there are many types of cases of medical negligence. Failure to diagnose a serious illness is a common scenario, and if it’s a serious disease like cancer, meningitis or HIV, the consequences of a delayed diagnosis can be devastating.
There’s also the failure to warn patients about the risks of various treatments, or the failure to get informed consent for a procedure.
A doctor may fail to refer a patient to a specialist when it turns out to have been necessary, again causing a delay in treatment. Delays in treatment are especially distressing, as they can reduce the chances of a good outcome for the patient.
You may be unlucky enough to have a negligent surgeon, and so suffer a surgical complication that wouldn’t have happened if the doctor had performed it with the necessary standard of care and attention. Birth injuries – to both mother and baby – can be devastating and even fatal. They can also lead to conditions like cerebral palsy, which has long-term implications for the whole family.
Super-bugs are a constant threat, and if you contract one while in hospital, it may be because the ward or theatre wasn’t clean enough.
If you live in Ireland, and you believe you or a loved one is the victim of medical negligence, you need to get expert legal advice as soon as you’re able to.
You should seek out an experienced medical negligence team and ask it to consider your case. The team will call upon experienced medical people – expert witnesses – to give their opinions on your medical negligence case.
Most solicitor teams will be able to tell you immediately if your claim is worth going into, and may be able to give you an idea of the damages you could be entitled to. The team will also be able to advise you about how long the process will take.
According to the State Claims Agency, the average medical negligence award in Ireland is €63,000, but of course this is just an average, with some cases ending in significantly higher payouts. The higher payouts tend to be made when someone has to think about long-term care for themselves or a dependant.