Since a medical practitioner is expected to improve your condition, you, as a patient, have the right to take legal action against a doctor, or nurse, if your condition worsens or a new one develops as a result of their negligence or malpractice. Your insurance would generally only cover future medical costs that resulted from the malpractice, and would not take into consideration compensation for general damages, like emotional distress.
What constitutes medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice or medical negligence is defined as a failure to uphold standard medical practices in either skill or knowledge, resulting in injury, further medical complications or death. Intentionality of the medical practitioners is not taken into consideration, as there is a professional expectation of them which they must uphold.
Some examples of local medical lawsuits include that of Ms. Narindar Singh, who died after a surgical procedure to remove her left kidney for donation to her husband; as well as that of a baby conceived with a stranger’s DNA because a hospital had mixed up the sperm used for the in-vitro fertilisation or IVF procedure.
What can be done?
Before choosing litigation as a solution, one option is to lodge a complaint with the Singapore Medical Council.
If you do decide to take the legal route, you can make a claim against Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, surgeons and even hospitals. There are now various insurance schemes protecting medical practitioners from possible lawsuits by patients for malpractice or negligence.
What can a lawyer do in this situation?
If you feel that you have been the victim of medical malpractice, and the ensuing medical costs of that malpractice are very high, legal advice is recommended. While you can lodge a complaint against the doctor or hospital, it is unlikely that you will be provided with recourse or compensation.
A lawyer specialising in medical law will be able to help you ascertain the liability of the medical practitioner or institution through the Bolam and Bolitho tests. These two tests will be done to ascertain whether the medical practitioner or institution acted according to proper medical procedures, as ascertained by a third-party medical professional; and whether the medical practitioner or institution properly weighed the risks and benefits in the matter. The lawyer will then either arrive at a settlement with the other party’s legal representative or represent you in court to argue for the monetary compensation you, as a claimant, will receive if the claim made is a successful one.
Claims can be made for either General or Special Damages. General damages include loss of future earnings, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering, among other “softer” losses. Special damages would be the more easily quantifiable costs, like medical bills and therapy, for example.
How to make a claim?
Submitting claims as a patient to the medical practitioner or hospital you want to seek relief from would generally be unsuccessful. Before seeking help from a legal representative, you should try to obtain medical reports, receipts, prescriptions, and. perhaps, even a second medical opinion. Presenting these to your lawyer will help him or her make a more convincing claim in your favour.
The next step would clearly be to find a legal representative. If you have been a victim of medical malpractice or negligence, you can search through our database of lawyers on Asia Law Network to find one that would can best represent you.