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Medical Malpractice by Doctor

Medical Malpractice by Doctors: Injury or Death of a Child after Surgery

The increase in medical malpractice by doctors and healthcare professionals in South Africa is alarming. It takes just a simple Internet search for “medical malpractice by doctor or nurse” to find countless news reports on cases – ranging from birth injuries, to heart-breaking stories about gross negligence in post-surgery care leading to the death of patients.

Though it is possible that more and more people become aware of their rights to reasonable standards of healthcare and that being the reason for more medical malpractice claims, it is also quite possible that many doctors do not take the necessary care in performing their duties.

If your child dies as the result of a surgical procedure, you may not immediately think that it is because of a mistake made by the surgeon. Complications cannot always be foreseen, but if your child dies post-operation or even on the operation table as the result of a mistake, you have the right to take legal steps against the practitioner in question.

The medical history of the patient, treatment records, and similar cases in which other patients have died while treated by the same doctor should be considered. Because medical malpractice lawsuits sometimes take years to conclude, people often shy away from taking legal actions against healthcare professionals. The system also doesn’t seem to be very patient-friendly. Moreover, asking to see the medical records or to have an autopsy performed to determine the true cause of death can be difficult for grieving parents. In addition, red tape and less than cooperative healthcare administrative personnel may cause the grieving parents to eventually give up on finding answers for the premature deaths of their children.

Understanding procedures to follow in taking legal action for medical malpractice by doctors is essential. To this end, it is recommended to seek legal guidance immediately, even before requesting medical records. For it to meet the requirements of malpractice, the actions or lack thereof by the healthcare professional must have caused the patient’s injury, damages, or death. There must have been a doctor-patient relationship and thus a duty of care. In consideration of whether the patient’s injuries or death were the results of the action or lack thereof by the healthcare professional, medical expert witnesses determine whether a reasonable standard of care has been given. They determine whether a healthcare professional in a similar situation, with similar training, qualifications, and experience would have done the same.

To start the process, one must first consult an attorney specialises in medical malpractice cases. The attorney will then request the medical records of the patient from the relevant healthcare professionals. A court order may be issued for the release of the records to the attorney where the healthcare professional, practice, or institution fails to respond and comply with the request.

It is essential to consult as soon as possible after becoming aware that the injury or death was the result of the negligence of the healthcare professional. Here too it is important to take legal action against the correct person or institute. One has to determine whether it could have been avoided and whether the doctor was indeed responsible, or whether the mistake was the result of defective equipment or medication, or a combination of factors.

With consideration of the complexity of such lawsuits, seek legal advice from Adele van der Walt Incorporated to help you determine whether the injury or death of your child was the result of medical malpractice by a doctor.


*Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Call on our attorneys for legal advice, rather than relying on the information herein to make any decisions. The information is relevant as at the date of publishing –  November 2019.

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