Odds stacked against victims of negligence, group claims

Conor Pope

THE MEDICAL profession and the State are consistently covering up mistakes in order to minimise the risks of cash payouts to patients involved in negligence cases, it was claimed yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of the Medical Negligence Alliance, a group set up to advocate patients injured during medical procedures, its chairman Michael Boylan said even in cases "where a clear error has been made the automatic position of the health section can be to deny any responsibility".

He said victims of medical negligence "very often find that the odds are stacked against them".
Assessing information about what happened can be “difficult or near impossible” and Irish doctors were unwilling to testify against their colleagues, he said.

“Finding medics to give evidence on their behalf can be exceptionally time consuming and expensive and without access to an effective system of legal aid, many victims simply do not have the resources needed to access justice”, Mr. Boylan said.
He also said while official figures put the number of medical accidents at about 84,000 each year, the number injured while in care each year could be twice as large. He called for “duty of candour”, which would compel all healthcare professionals to reveal at the earliest opportunity when a medical accident takes place to be introduced on a stator basis.

Mr. Boylan said while medical staff submitted "accident reports to the HSE and the State Claims Agency, such reports were not given to patients who had a right to know what has happed to them or to their families.

He pointed out that when a duty of candour obligation was introduced in the University of Michigan Hospital system, there was a decline in the legal costs arising from medical negligence.

Mr. Boylan said the aim of the new organisation was to bring about "a change in the culture of Irish hospitals and healthcare settings and a move to openness and transparency in the communication between doctors and patients when preventable errors occur".

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