Case Study – Failure to Diagnose a Medical Condition/Makes the Wrong Diagnosis
Medical Negligence claims regularly feature a genuine error, which fits with the most common case-law governing this type of claim. The case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee is rapidly approaching its’ 70th anniversary, however, it is a piece of common sense case-law that governs medical negligence cases as well as it ever has. It is often known as the “Bolam Test” when applying it to individual cases.
In short, the Bolam Test asks whether a particular action by a medical practitioner would be considered competent by a reasonable body of similarly qualified practitioners. As medicine is rarely “black and white” the standard is set by what competent practitioners would have done, rather than a, “hindsight”, approach of “was the diagnosis correct?” So, if an Accident and Emergency Specialist follows a certain course of action, provided a sizeable number of other Accident and Emergency Specialists would have done the same, the action was likely reasonable and most importantly, the treating medical practitioner’s actions, would not be considered to be negligent, for the purpose of pursuing a claim for medical negligence compensation.
So, how does this work in real life? – a Case Study of a matter MG Legal’s solicitors specialising in medical negligence, settled for one of our wonderful clients.
Not long ago, MG Legal’s specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors were approached by Mrs P - an absolutely delightful lady, who was unfortunate enough for her medical condition to have been misdiagnosed by the Accident and Emergency Department of her local hospital. On several occasions, Mrs P attended the local A&E department complaining of severe abdominal pain. On each occasion, she attended with the same complaint and each time, Mrs P was sent home without any form of test or investigation. Each time Mrs P was diagnosed as having a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
Despite taking the prescribed medication and showing no improvement and in fact complaining of significantly worsening pain, there was no change in approach by the local A&E department. Eventually, with her pain reaching excruciating levels, and nobody at her local hospital listening to her, Mrs P was taken by a friend to a different Hospital some 25 miles away to their A&E Department. Immediately, Mrs P was diagnosed with advanced Appendicitis, and in fact her appendix had ruptured, causing numerous secondary infections. Mrs P faced a much more complex, open operation with a long, slow road to recovery instead of having a simple, keyhole procedure with a recovery time of a couple of weeks.
What did MG Legal’s medical negligence solicitors do to help Mrs P?
Mrs P approached MG Legal for help pursuing a claim for damages arising out of a medical negligence claim, and immediately our specialist Medical Negligence Solicitor identified the failures on the part of the Consultants at the local A&E Department. Mrs P was given a comprehensive initial consultation and the claims process explained to her. Given the prospects of success appeared reasonable, we offered to work on a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win, no fee agreement) so that Mrs P did not need to worry about paying legal fees. From that point onwards, having full confidence in her medical negligence Solicitor, Mrs P was free to concentrate on her recovery, safe in the knowledge that the claim would be progressed swiftly and efficiently.
How did MG Legal resolve the claim for Mrs P?
As required by the Bolam Test, MG Legal instructed an appropriate medico-legal expert- in the case of Mrs P we instructed a very well renowned, and trusted Consultant in Emergency Medicine. It would have been a Consultant in Emergency Medicine who was running the A&E Department who turned Mrs P away several times and so, the same type of expert has to be used to say what they did wrong and what “a reasonable body of similarly qualified practitioners” would have done instead. The medico-legal report was favourable and shortly after disclosure, on the strength of the report, the NHS admitted liability. All that remained was to summarise Mrs P’s recovery. For this, a General Colorectal Surgeon was used to detail the issues with Mrs P’s recovery and how much more complex, prolonged and unpleasant it would be compared to a keyhole appendectomy. With that report completing the expert evidence in Mrs P’s favour, all that remained was for our solicitors specialising in medical negligence cases, to value the claim.
How did MG Legal negotiate settlement?
Of course, admitting liability still leaves the matter of the value of the claim open for discussion and the NHS, as with any opponent, will try to minimise the monies they pay out in compensation for their mistakes. MG Legal’s team of medical negligence solicitors are experts in what they do, and are well versed in negotiating such settlements and we approach every negotiation with the same confidence, giving a strong impression to our opponent that we know exactly how valuable each claim is. As well as the wealth of experience within the Personal Injury Department, we do our “homework” on each and every case, first reviewing reference books such as the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines and if necessary case-law which allows for fine-tuning of settlements to ensure the maximum possible value is obtained. This allows us to place a value on personal injury itself, also known as General Damages. And to make sure our injured clients are well and truly looked after, we often seek the opinion of a barrister specialising in medical negligence cases, so that our clients know that no stone is left unturned in an attempt to get them the most compensation possible.
We also discussed with Mrs P any other effects on her life, including lost earnings from time off work due to illness, travel costs for additional hospital visits, medication costs, costs of care for friends and family helping with the daily activities she could not perform due to the severity of her surgery, the longer term of recovery and the ongoing symptoms caused by the complications of secondary infections. Working with Mrs P, MG Legal assessed the total financial cost, past, present and future due to the negligence and produced a schedule for these losses, which are also known as Special Damages.
After a short but active negotiation period, MG Legal’s expert Medical Negligence Solicitor reached a settlement for Mrs P’s claim which comfortably exceeded the minimum value placed on the claim. Mrs P received a payment from the NHS for her General and Special Damages, known as a Global Settlement, to bring the incident to a close and to allow her to concentrate on the last steps of her recovery and ultimately, putting the incident behind her.
What should I do if I am a victim of medical negligence?
If you have suffered medical negligence due to the negligent treatment or advice, of a medical practitioner, from a dentist, to a doctor, or surgeon, then you are not alone- MG Legal’s specially trained solicitors accept all claims for medical negligence, on a No Win No Fee basis.
First and foremost, we hope that this doesn’t happen to anyone again. The NHS are attempting to reduce the number of patients made ill, or injured as a result of medical negligence, with The Public Accounts Committee’s 2017 report recommending that urgent and coordinated action be taken to reduce patient harm, especially in maternity care. However, it is an unfortunate fact of life that mistakes do happen and people do suffer injuries and losses because of it. If this is the case, then you are not expected to suffer, and not be compensated for your injuries. Get in touch with MG Legal’s specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors for a no-nonsense, professional and most importantly, personable discussion about your claim. We will always carry out any initial investigative work free of charge and with a view to accepting your claim on a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win, no fee agreement). Get in touch by phone, email, send a call-back request via the website or at any of our high street offices in Garstang, Lancaster and Longridge. MG Legal are your local solicitors for No Win No Fee Medical Negligence Claims.