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Medical Malpractice Cases

FAQ – Medical Malpractice in South Africa

Here are a few of the frequently asked questions below to help you gain a better understanding of medical malpractice cases in South Africa.

What is medical malpractice?

An example is more of undergo surgery for the removal of your wisdom teeth, but upon waking up you discover that all your teeth have been removed without your consent. Another example is where the medical practitioner performs an incorrect procedure without informing you of the risks and you end up paralysed. Not all medical malpractice cases are about serious injuries or extensive damage though.

In any situation where you are injured or physically suffer because of the action or failure to act according to reasonable and acceptable procedure by the medical practitioner and where you suffer financial damage as a result can meet the requirements of medical negligence. However, certain requirements must be met, such as the existence of a medical caregiver and patient relationship, and the injury and damages suffered must be the result of the negligence on the part of the medical caregiver.

You cannot hold the medical caregiver responsible for unforeseen complications. Likewise, if you have not disclosed essential information about your medical history and possible allergies and the practitioner prescribes a medicine to which you show a severe allergic reaction, you cannot take legal steps against the practitioner. And if you, for instance, remove stitches before the due date and without medical supervision and the wound is infected as a result then the medical caregiver cannot be held responsible for the injury and damages suffered.

Who decides whether the medical practitioner has been negligent or not?

Your attorney advises you on expert advice. If you take legal steps against the practitioner and the case is heard in court, a judge then has the final decision. The judge will review all the evidence presented by your attorney and the attorney of the defendant. Such evidence includes medical records, expert opinions, and testimonies. In most instances the judge will rule for compensation to the plaintiff where the ruling is in favour of the plaintiff.

Is it only the medical practitioner that is responsible, or can I hold his/her staff and the hospital responsible for medical negligence?

The doctor, his/her staff and the hospital where the incident occurred can be held responsible if relevant. If the doctor implemented an incorrect treatment, then only the doctor was negligent. However, if you suffered injury because the doctor’s staff didn’t follow the correct procedures in, for instance, administering medication incorrectly, the staff members are responsible. If the hospital’s equipment was sub-standard or not maintained according to the required procedures and the injury suffered was the result of equipment failure, the hospital can then be held responsible for injury and damages suffered, unless an indemnity covers this issue it may then be an issue of liability against the suppliers of the equipment.

How do I know that I have suffered from medical malpractice?

Negligence is rather difficult to prove, but if you suffered negative effects from the treatment or experience complications not as a result of your own actions, but that of the medical practitioner, chances are that the medical professional/staff/hospital can be held responsible for medical malpractice or negligence.


Note that the information in this article is for information purposes only and should not be seen as an attempt to provide legal advice. We strongly recommend that you contact us at Adele van der Walt Incorporated for professional legal advice.

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