Patient name released after amended non-publication order request

Date:Mar 05, 2019

Medical negligence is a common yet unfortunate occurrence for patients in the state of NSW. At Gerard Malouf & Partners alone, we have more than 800 current medical negligence matters either ready to be lodged or awaiting determination by the courts. However, there are some cases that capture the media's attention more than others - especially when they involve multiple individuals and horrifying details. 

What were the events of this case?

On September 24, 2018, the NSW Tribunal gave a decision on a well-publicised case involving a former registered gynaecologist. The proceedings were brought forward by the Health Care Complaints Commission and focused on surgeries carried out by the practitioner on 17 different women. All patients had suffered pelvic organ prolapse collapses. The charges varied from failing to gain consent to leaving women with serious complications after undertaking surgeries.

The Tribunal made orders that, had the practitioner been registered at the date of the hearing, they would have cancelled his registration. He was instead disqualified from seeking a reinstatement order for a period of five years.

During the original proceedings, an order was made under the National Law prohibiting the publication of the patients' names identified in the case (the non-publication order). This was submitted at the request of all parties and was implemented to protect the privacy of patients as some may not have been aware their clinical records were issued by the Tribunal.

One of the patients whose records were assessed by the Tribunal was Patient O. Tragically, some time after the woman was seen by the former practitioner, she committed suicide.

What was the applicant seeking?

Following her mother's death, the daughter (the applicant) brought an application to the Tribunal asking that the non-publication order relating to her mother be lifted. She explained that she didn't want people to describe her mother as Patient O, rather than her real name. This, she explained, would uphold her mother's dignity and if the order was granted, she would be able to speak to journalists regarding her mother's experiences with the practitioner. 

"I appreciate that it was made to protect her privacy but my mother is no longer here. It is my wish as her only surviving child to have the order lifted," explained her daughter.

What did the defendant argue?

In his defence the former practitioner argued that the application wasn't made by the patient herself, and the Tribunal couldn't be confident she would have wanted her confidential details released. He also expressed concern that any future news stories regarding the patient and himself could affect his reputation further. 

The court was satisfied that the lifted order wouldn't significantly affect the former practitioner, and in order to fulfil the well wishes of the patient and her daughter, the non-publication order should be amended. This would protect the privacy of all other patients, with the exception of Patient O.

If you've been affected as a result of medical negligence, get in touch with the specialised lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners to review your options for compensation. 

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