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Is Medical Negligence a Reality in South Africa and What Can You Do?

Medical negligence in South Africa occurs more often than most people think. Doctors are human too and what’s more is that they work very long hours, so yes, mistakes can happen. However, where such mistakes lead to serious injury or health problems, the patients have the right to initiate legal proceedings to get compensation for the damages suffered.

Types of Malpractice

Medical negligence or malpractice in South Africa ranges from mistakes in follow-up after invasive medical procedures, to breaches in confidentiality. Lack of informed consent is also a type of medical malpractice.

The theatre is a high-risk area for mistakes that can lead to serious injury or even result in the death of a loved one. Incorrect anaesthesia dosage, for instance, can lead to the patient’s death, and failure to correctly monitor the heart rate of an infant during the birthing procedure can lead to brain damage of the child.

Failure to confirm allergies before administering medicines can cause long-term suffering; improper caring for patients can lead to bed sores becoming life threatening conditions; and misdiagnosis of medical conditions can lead to incorrect treatments resulting in serious injury or death.

Turning a patient away who is in a critical condition can lead to the death of the patient, while discussing information shared by the patient with non-relevant third parties can cause the patient to lose their job and standing in the community.


The medical professionals have the duty to uphold a reasonable standard of medical care, ensure that the integrity of the patient is respected, respect confidentiality, and to make sure the patient is aware of the risks involved and if there are alternatives to a particular treatment. Unfortunately, due to human error or lack of care, many patients suffer serious injury in South Africa.

What to Do?

Knowing your rights as a patient and what you can do in order to get compensation for the damages suffered, including physical, financial and emotional damages, is essential. Since not everyone can be an expert in law, it is understandable that you may not know the procedures to follow, and this is where the expertise of medical law attorneys becomes valuable.

The first step is to collect all the documents you have related to the treatment, the receipts for payments made and witness details. Write down the name and contact information of the medical practitioner or institution, the dates, treatments received, costs incurred, and a summary of the incident.

Important documented proof includes:

  • Medical records.
  • Insurance or medical aid statements.
  • Receipts for prescription medicine and tests.
  • Proof of loss of income.
  • All written communication with relevant medical institutions.

It may be difficult for you to get your medical records from the relevant practitioners or hospitals. We will handle this process on your behalf, including contacting the medical aid, speak to medical experts, contact possible witnesses, and more. We will also inform you about the legal process, potential for an out-of-court settlement, estimated duration of proceedings, costs and the potential for a successful outcome.


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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