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Medical Negligence

Understanding the Legal and Ethical Consequences of Medical Negligence

Medical negligence occurs when a doctor or healthcare provider fails to do their due diligence and the patient faces subsequent harm, or in extreme cases, wrongful death. Medical negligence can impact patients and their families in many ways. Not only can it cause irreparable physical harm and suffering, but it can also negatively impact access to employment and cause long-term distress. In such cases, legal support is advised if patients are to access their rights and gain rightful compensation.

Medical Negligence

Medical Negligence Claims

Under South African law, medical negligence can be understood as “the failure of a medical practitioner to act in accordance with medical standards that have been set and are practised by any ordinary and reasonable medical practitioner in the same field.” 

In situations of medical negligence or malpractice, the practitioner's failure to act according to medical standards results in harm to the patient. This could include the following:

  • A medical practitioner deviates from an agreed-on treatment plan and introduces new treatments without getting the patient’s consent resulting in damages the patient suffered, this excludes emergencies. 
  • A healthcare provider doesn’t run the right blood tests and fails to properly diagnose a disease and the patient suffers harm.
  • A medical professional accidentally punctures an organ during surgery and causes medical harm, the end result may have more complication than an acknowledged complication. 
  • A medical practitioner fails to properly monitor foetal distress and doesn’t perform an emergency C-section.


There are many examples of medical malpractice and negligence, and each situation will have different consequences for patients and their families. In some cases, negligence could lead to wrongful death.

South African Law Supports Victims of Medical Negligence

South African law makes it possible for victims to access their rights. There are legal consequences and working with a qualified attorney who is experienced in medical law can help you to access your rights and lay a claim. Moreover, taking a stand against medical negligence also has ethical implications, since healthcare providers have promised to honour the Hippocratic oath and treat patients with dignity, honesty, and integrity. When they neglect patient needs, they fail to do this.

Reach Out to Our Seasoned Attorneys 

If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence, we at Adele van der Walt Inc Attorneys can help you get the justice that you deserve. We have a wealth of experience in medical law, and we will discuss your case with you, offering insight into the legal technicalities and the ethical nuances. For more information, reach out to us and we will be of assistance. 


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 to the date of publishing – [January] 2024.

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