Mc Naught & Co
The undermentioned article is the interpretation of the law and the opinion of the writer and in no way constitutes legal advice pertaining to your particular matter. Please visit www.maclaw.co.za and contact our professional team for specialized legal service.
In the President’s address on 09 April 2020 regarding the extension of the lockdown, a disturbing note was South Africa’s shortage of medical protective equipment for healthcare workers to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Thus, making it high risk for our “army” who are on the forefront of this pandemic, fighting against an invisible enemy. This sort of situation places additional pressure on an already strained healthcare system and on professionals working long hours.
There has been a significant increase in the number of medical negligence cases in South Africa, particularly in Gauteng. Whilst, the common cases are mainly maternity, obstetric and orthopaedic claims, with our healthcare system currently under great strain and medical practitioners under immense pressure, we must take extra precaution and be more mindful when receiving treatment not just for Covid-19 but of any kind.
Medical negligence is caused when a medical practitioner and/or healthcare worker does not exercise the necessary and reasonable standard of care in the treatment of a patient, thereby resulting in an injury or a medical side effect. To assess whether you have a medical negligence claim, take note of the following:
1. The harm and/or injury suffered must be a direct cause of the practitioner’s actions or lack thereof;
2. The reasonable standard of care in receiving treatment was not excercised. In other words, “was the conduct below the standard of a reasonably competition practitioner
in his field? – if the “error” is one that a reasonably competent practitioner would have made, it will not amount to negligence” (Castell v De Greef). This is determined by a specialist.
3. There must a doctor-patient relationship in order for a claim. The doctor must be directly responsible for medically treating the patient.
Furthermore, a medical practitioner cannot be held liable for unforeseen side effects from unavoidable treatment.
In a healthcare system under immense pressure with our healthcare professionals sometimes working under extremely trying circumstances, unfortunate mistakes may occur. Not all such mistakes amount to medical negligence however.
The above are the basic elements to assess medical negligence, however same is not an exhaustive list. It is advisable to keep a coherent list of the sequence of events, advices rendered, side effects, and your medical records to enable you to obtain a comprehensive opinion on whether or not you should proceed with a claim in the event of an issue.
Contact one of our
professionals to advise and assist in such an event.