Medical negligence isn't just an action reserved for the operating table. Like the below case showcases, negligence can occur in diagnosis and prescription too.
But how did the court decide to rule in this example of prescription misdiagnosis, when a husband decided to fight for his deceased wife's right for damages?
Background of the case
The plaintiff was married to the deceased from 1988 until her death. During her life, his wife suffered with Lupus – a serious systemic autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own tissues. The plaintiff's wife was treated for her condition by a doctor (the defendant) in the years leading up to her death. During the course of her treatment, the plaintiff sustained an addiction to her prescription medicine, otherwise known as endone.
In the events leading up to the addiction, the defendant had began a regime of prescribing smaller quantities of the drug more frequently in a bid to prevent her from building up dangerous quantities of the drug in her system. However, on a date just before the deceased's death, the defendant prescribed a larger quantity of endone contrary to this regime.
A short time after, it became apparent that the cause of death was 'mixed drug toxicity'. When making his police statement, the defendant claimed that he had prescribed a larger dose of endone because the deceased had informed him that she was going on holiday and needed the required amount to cover this period. This conversation occurred the day before the deceased's death.
Police also discovered a number of open prescription boxes near to the body – including endone and other drugs prescribed by the defendant.
In official statements, the plaintiff noted that the deceased would often hide endone to conceal her consumption and that she had accidentally overdosed on prior occasions. It was after the prior accidental overdose that the defendant agreed to monitor the prescriptions.
Representatives of the plaintiff believed he may have a cause of action in negligence against the defendant under the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW). However, in order to do so, the documents set out in the defendant's schedule would be required. The defendant refused to provide these documents.
Making a decision
After taking the above information into account, the court felt satisfied that the plaintiff may be able to bring a claim for damages – especially when considering the defendant's administration of medication and his general level of clinical care. Determining a breach of duty of care would depend on the results of analysis of the essential documents yet to be provided.
Therefore, the court ordered that the defendant had seven days to bring the documents to court, which would allow them to make a proper decision.
If yourself or a loved one has suffered negligence at the hands of a medical professional, get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners to see how we can help submit a claim for compensation.