Home / Medical Negligence* / What is Medical Malpractice*?

What is Medical Malpractice*?

Any registered medical practitioner can be guilty of medical malpractice including doctors, dentists, opticians and even midwives.
Medical malpractice is any avoidable action, or lack of appropriate action, by a registered medical practitioner which causes an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition. This can include:

Failure to correctly diagnose
Delay in providing treatment
An injury caused during a surgical procedure
A hospital acquired infection due to a lack of acceptable care

Medical malpractice compensation claims have to be made through the courts with the assistance of a solicitor, as the extent of medical malpractice is determined by the opinion of medical experts rather than relying on an assessment by the Injuries Board Ireland. You will have to have an independent medical examination by a medical expert to ascertain and confirm the severity of your injuries and the extent of the medical malpractice which caused them.

Examples of Medical Malpractice

One of the most common examples of medical malpractice is the misdiagnosis of breast cancer. It seems that many doctors do not expect to find breast cancer appearing in younger women and tend to offer reassurance that a breast lump is due to a cyst or fibrocystic tissue rather than a malignancy without running simple tests that could provide more accurate diagnosis. Misdiagnosis is also relatively frequent in cases of lung cancer and colon cancer, and it should be the duty of the doctor or other medical practitioner to ensure that a full examination is performed to eliminate such diseases when the early symptoms appear.

A claim for medical malpractice can also be due to an accident that occurs during surgery. This is not limited to a surgeon´s medical malpractice, it could be any one of the medical team involved in the pre-operative planning of the surgery or assisting during the operation guiding the surgeon erroneously. Even after surgery, an excessive administration of antibiotics may provoke problems rather than prevent infection. The treatment of surgical wounds around keyhole surgery can also be considered to be medical malpractice when the medical practitioner does not take into account the risk of haemorrhaging.

Perhaps the most infamous example of medical malpractice in Ireland was the contaminated Anti-D blood scandal of the 1970s and 1990s, in which thousands of women received blood which contained the Hepatitis C virus. Even though nobody was ever formally convicted of being guilty of medical malpractice, the Health and Safety Executive has already paid out more than €250 million to women who contracted the disease due to the medical malpractice of the Blood Transfusion Service Board.

Claiming Compensation for Medical Malpractice

Claiming compensation for medical malpractice can be a complex procedure. Even though it may be obvious that you have suffered an injury, proving that it was due to a lack of care in a situation which was otherwise avoidable requires a strong medically backed argument. Similarly, it may also be very difficult to apportion blame. Even in the case of medical malpractice due to a misdiagnosis, would you be certain that it was a specific doctor that was liable for the misdiagnosis? Could it have been a technician handling the tests, or an administrator responsible for delivering the results?

A solicitor handling your claim for medical malpractice compensation will write to all the potential negligent parties, asking them for case notes and advising them that you intend making a claim. Should your case already be a strong one, there will also be an invitation to settle and avoid court proceedings. Where liability is decided without going to court, a compensation payment for medical malpractice would be negotiated with the insurance company representing the medical practitioner responsible for your injury or the Health and Safety Executive.

If a claim for medical malpractice compensation has to go to court, it is more than likely to be heard by the High Court. Awards of medical malpractice compensation tend to be significant, due to the physical and psychological trauma that has been suffered by the patient. Only when a compensation settlement is anticipated to be below €60,000 will it be heard by a District or Circuit Court. And even then your solicitor may wish to have the case presented to a higher authority beccause of the High Court´s experience in passing judgment on claims for medical malpractice compensation.

Further Information about Medical Malpractice

We understand that when you or a loved one have suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, compensation may not be the first thing on your mind, and where you believe that a family doctor or other trusted medical practitioner is liable for the injury, you may be reluctant to bring a claim against them. If you have issues like these, or any other questions about claiming for medical malpractice compensation, you are invited to contact our legal claims advice helpline.

We have experienced personal injury claims solicitors on hand to answer any questions, give you helpful and practical advice and offer support and further information about claiming compensation for medical malpractice. Our lines are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and we have a call-back service if it is not a convenient time to call right now. Simply enter your contact details in the call-back box and one of our team will be in touch at a more suitable time.

All calls to our legal claims advice helpline are completely confidential and you are under no obligation to proceed with a claim for medical malpractice compensation once you have spoken with us.