Medical negligence law suits are becoming more prevalent as people seek to protect their rights in regards to medical malpractice.

Medical negligence (also known as medical malpractice) occurs when the treatment provided by a health service provider such as a doctor, surgeon, dentist etc or health service organisations such as public or private hospitals, clinics or medical centres is deemed to be less than an acceptable standard by law and is cause for compensation.

What is medical negligence / medical malpractice?

Health professionals are also under a common law duty to take reasonable care for the safety and well being of their patients. Breaches of that duty of care may give rise to claims for damages and this is called medical negligence or medical malpractice.

Medical negligence law claims may involve the following:

  • Failure to diagnose a condition or misdiagnosis;
  • Failure to warn a patient about possible complications or risks of surgery and other procedures;
  • Failure to conduct appropriate tests such as blood tests, scans, biopsies to diagnose a condition or failure to advise patients of test results;
  • Failing to or delay in providing the appropriate treatment or referral to a specialist;
  • Failing to perform surgery with reasonable care and skill;
  • Failing to report correctly on test results;
  • Failing to provide post-operative care or diagnose and/treat complications after surgery.

How do I make a complaint?

Some people choose to make a complaint in addition to or instead of a compensation claim. Whether or not you decide to pursue a compensation claim, you can still make a complaint to an independent government body/commission. In NSW, you can lodge a claim with the Health Care Complaints Commission and/or seek compensation for medical negligence.

A complaint about medical negligence must be lodged writing as required by the Act. To lodge a complaint online, or download a complaint form , visit the Health Care Complaints Commission website. Alternatively you can write a letter and send it to the Commission via mail, email or fax.

Who can make a complaint?

It is not only the person who has allegedly experienced negligent treatment that can make a complaint about medical negligence.

Under common law, any person, including the following, can make a complaint:

  • The person who experienced the alleged medical negligence.
  • A parent or guardian of the person or child concerned.
  • A relative, friend or representative chosen by the person concerned for the purpose of making the complaint.
  • A health service provider or other concerned person.

However, if a complaint is made on behalf of a person who experienced the problem, written authority is required to lodge the complaint and it is also required where access to medical records is required under the existing medical negligence law. If the person is under 18 years of age or deceased, written authority is not required.

Who can be complained about?

You can make a complaint in regards under current medical negligence law against anyone who is a health professional, health provider and/or health organisation in NSW

This may include practitioners and organisations such as:

  • health professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists
  • health service organisations such as public or private hospitals, clinics, medical centres, day surgery centres or
  • service providers not requiring registration in NSW such as acupuncturists, naturopaths, psychotherapists.

What happens when the complaint is lodged?

Once the Commission receives a complaint, it will be allocated to an Assessment Officer. The Commission usually notifies the health service provider that a complaint has been made about them and provides a copy of your complaint. The Commission has 60 days to assess your complaint. When the Commission has made its assessment decision all the parties involved will be notified of the decision in writing within 14 days.

If you would like to know more about how to lodge a complaint against medical negligence or medical malpractice, learn about your rights regarding medical negligence or would like to make a compensation claim, contact our Medical Negligence Law team during business hours on 1800 770 780.

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