More Articles

Medical Negligence

Is it Medical Negligence?

Thousands of patients receive quality healthcare in South Africa daily, but mistakes do happen. That being said, not all mistakes by doctors constitute medical negligence. It is important to understand when you have the right to institute a medical negligence claim in order to avoid unnecessary legal expenses. We thus briefly look at some of the important requirements of medical negligence, helping you to determine if you have been a victim.

Medical Harm

If you have not suffered medical injury as the result of the action or lack thereof on the part of the healthcare professional, then it is not medical negligence. A basic requirement is that the patient must have suffered physical harm or injury as the result of the action or lack thereof by the healthcare worker.

If the healthcare professional makes a wrong diagnosis, but the patient suffers no harm as the result, there is no medical negligence.

In many instances, insurers do not pay out on insurance disability claims. In other instances, they do, but pay far less than the claimants expect. The fine print is thus exceptionally important when taking our insurance disability cover.

We assist clients who have made insurance disability claims to their insurers, but have not received the required payments.

The Result of the Action or Lack Thereof by the Healthcare Professional

This brings us to the next requirement. The healthcare professional’s actions must be the reason for the injury and damages suffered. In this instance, it is essential to take legal steps against the right party. If faulty equipment was at fault, it is not necessarily the healthcare professional’s fault. The hospital management company, the management and maintenance staff, the equipment manufacturer, as well as the supplier of the equipment may be held responsible. It is, however, still possible that the healthcare professional knew the equipment was faulty when they used such for testing or medical treatment of the patient. In such an instance, it becomes even more complicated to determine who is at fault.

If you have suffered injury as the result of treatment, but the healthcare professional did follow the correct procedures throughout the treatment, it is still not medical negligence. The injury must be a direct result of the actions or lack thereof by the healthcare professional. If the doctor provided a reasonable standard of care, you cannot claim medical negligence.

Reasonable Standards of Care

This is perhaps the most complicated part of proving medical negligence. Determining what is a reasonable standard of care is already difficult. Reasonable standards of care should be seen in relation to the circumstances under which treatment has been given. Would a doctor in a similar situation, with the same training and background, have made the same decision or have followed the same procedure? Would the outcome have been different?

Doctor-Patient Relationship

There must have been a medical caregiver and patient relationship. You cannot hold a third party responsible for the injury. This means you cannot hold someone responsible for the injury if they did not have a direct duty of care towards you. You cannot hold a doctor responsible for giving advice to your healthcare professional.

If you have contributed or caused the injury, then it is also not medical negligence. How does it work? Say you were hospitalised for an illness. After treatment, you were released with proper instruction regarding aftercare. If you have not followed the instruction and have suffered injury as the result thereof, then it is not medical negligence.


Information in this article is not intended as legal advice and is only for informational purposes. Please seek legal guidance from Adele van der Walt before relying on this information to make any legal decisions.

Contact us