Not speaking the same language as a patient is no excuse for a medical practitioner to breach their duty of informing the patient and gaining their consent. Find out how a recent case involving a non-English speaker who was injured due to medical negligence shows the importance of informed consent.
Inadequate translation services can count as medical negligence
In 2015, the New South Wales District Court decided in favour of a Macedonian patient who was a non-English speaker said to have experienced medical negligence due to lack of consent. She first consulted the practitioner on 3 April 2009 and was accompanied by a friend who spoke her language and some English, but was not a qualified interpreter.
The doctor, it was concluded, was aware that the patient did not speak English and the patient’s request for an interpreter was not granted, as there was no interpreter available.
During the surgery, complications arose. A facial nerve was sliced during surgery, which caused the patient to suffer facial palsy.
The plaintiff claimed that, before the surgery, she did not understand the location of her tumour nor did she understand the risks of the surgery. If she had been informed of these two matters, she said she would not have consented to the surgery.
The court conceded that the defendant may have warned the patient of the risks of nerve damage, but, because an interpreter was not secured, it was likely that the patient’s friend did not successfully translate the information.
Due to the failure to inform the patient, the court ruled that she had suffered medical negligence and, as a result, was owed $330,000 in damages.
Compensation for medical negligence
As a patient, you have a right to be informed of the risks and benefits of surgical or medical procedure. If the practitioner fails to explain the pros and cons, they will have breached their duty to provide informed consent and could be liable for medical negligence.
If you feel that you have been inadequately informed, you may be eligible to lodge a Failure to Advise claim. As the case above illustrates, informing the patient includes making sure that the patient understood the information given. Therefore, even if a practitioner did tell the patient of the dangers and general steps of the procedure, they may still be guilty of failing to advise the patient.
Consult with Gerard Malouf and Partners today if you think you may have a medical negligence claim on your hands.