The NSW Supreme Court has dismissed a medical negligence claim after the claimant failed to prove her doctor erred in delivering a diagnosis.
A 55-year-old woman visited her GP in March 2011 complaining of a pain in her left foot. The doctor believed an infection was to blame and prescribed the patient antibiotics.
Later that month, the woman returned with tenderness and an abscess on the same foot. Again, the doctor diagnosed an infection as the problem and issued another course of antibiotics.
Finally, on March 29, the patient visited her GP for a third time. However, her regular doctor was unavailable so she travelled to a different clinic to see her husband's doctor instead.
He referred her to Tweed Hospital the following day, where an ultrasound of her leg picked up an arterial blood clot. Unfortunately, despite treatment, surgeons were unable to save the leg and it was amputated below the knee a couple of weeks later.
The woman argued that her doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose the clot in time and suggested her leg could have been saved if the problem had been spotted at an earlier visit.
Medical negligence claim rejected
NSW Supreme Court Justice Christine Adamson dismissed the woman's claim, citing a number of factors that raised questions about the plaintiff's reliability as a witness.
The crux of the case relied on whether or not the doctor had detected an abnormal pulse in the foot, which would have suggested a clot. The doctor said she had checked the pulse, while the plaintiff denied this.
However, there were several discrepancies in the plaintiff's evidence. Firstly, she was found to have mixed up various dates and times, as well as claiming she informed her doctor of a past family history of blood clots.
The woman also said she suffered symptoms that would have pointed to a proper diagnosis – such as pins and needles in the foot – yet none of the doctor's notes showed this to be the case.
"My impression of the plaintiff was that she had decided at an early stage that someone was to blame for what had occurred and wanted to obtain damages to salve the undoubted distress and anguish she has suffered as a result of the loss of her left leg," Justice Adamson stated.
The judge therefore ruled in favour of the defendant and ordered the plaintiff to pay costs on the case. Had the plaintiff been successful, she would have been awarded over $500,000, according to court documents.
This case highlights the importance of seeking expert legal advice on a medical negligence claim to ensure the best chance of succeeding. A seasoned no-win, no-fee lawyer can gather evidence on your behalf and give you an honest appraisal of how likely you are to receive compensation.