In previous articles I have spoken about Clinical Negligence and the various forms in which it can present itself. I thought that today it would be useful to pick up on one particular area of this and look at those situtations where a doctor does not explain things properly to you and you then make a decison that you later regret.
The starting point in pursuing any claim for clinical negligence is to show that the doctor owed you a duty of care (which he clearly does) and that he was in breach of that duty by not matching the standard that you could reasonably expect of that doctor. The duty owed to you covers the whole range of treatment, advice and surgery you may need when you have contact with your GP or the hospital. The law on the point of how much information you need to be given is clear – you need to be given as much information as is necessary for you to understand what your medical complaint is, how it should be treated, the choices available and the consequences of further treatment or surgery. In legal terms we refer to this as “Informed choice” or in other words having enough information that you can make a decision on how to proceed.
Evidence shows that doctors are not always very good at this and I am contantly amazed at the number of people who do not even know what part of their body is being operated on when they go for surgery! If they don’t know THAT then how can they have made an informed decision on whether it was the right course of treatment for them? Of course it doesn’t matter too much if the procedure goes well and the problem is cured or made better but it DOES matter when somethng goes wrong and you are left feeling “If I’d known this might happen then I would never have had the operation”
So what should your doctor do? Well if surgery is being contemplated the doctor should take as much time as is necessary to explain to you what he is proposing to do but also the RISKS of the surgery, potential CONSEQUENCES and what CHOICES you have. These are very important considerations because if you don’t know the answer to these questions then you cannot decide whether to proceed. For example you may suffer from chronic back pain but if one of the risks of the proposed surgery is paralysis and as a consequence you will be wheelchair bound then you need to know about this. You need to know how high or low the chances of this happening are. You also need to know what the alternative forms of treatment are – what are your ‘choices’ . It may be that there are NO choices but you should at least be told this.
If you make a decision to proceed with surgery and you were not told about the risks and consequences or what alternatives were available and something goes wrong then you may have a claim for your pain and suffering and your resulting financial losses. In effect if you are left feeling that you would simply not have gone ahead if you had known the risks then you should pursue a claim on the basis that the doctor failed in his duty to you.
And just so that you know, the fact that you may have signed a Consent Form does not matter. This is not necessarily proof that you agreed to the risks and there is still plenty we can do to show that the doctor did not meet the standard you could expect of him.
Over the course of the next few articles I will pick up on other areas where a doctor may be in breach of his duty so watch this space… In the meantime if you think that you may have a claim because your doctor did not explain things to you properly then call me and we can discuss it further.