Medical negligence doesn't just occur on the operating table. Often, medical professionals breach their duty of care when offering treatment after the initial injury was sustained.
This was the topic of discussion in one recent medical negligence case brought before the County Court of Victoria. But did the plaintiff successful establish a breach of duty of care?
Background of the injury
On January 21, 2013 the plaintiff jumped from the balcony of a second storey building, intending to land in a swimming pool below. Unfortunately he missed, and instead landed heavily on his feet. As a result of his fall, the man suffered a serious fracture to the calcaneus in each ankle. This is also known as the heel bone and forms the foundation of the rear part of the foot. The plaintiff was immediately taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital (the defendant's hospital).
Doctors took X-rays of both ankles and found a small wound below a ligament on his right ankle and a blister wound on his left ankle. After attending the Orthopaedic Outpatient Clinic, the plaintiff underwent surgery to his left ankle, but not his right ankle. The man claims he received an excellent result from his surgery.
What did the plaintiff allege?
The plaintiff claimed that the defendant's employees were negligent in not informing him of the surgical option available to him for the treatment of both fractures. He alleged that had he undergone the surgery to his right ankle, his outcome would have been better than his current situation, and a similar result to that of his left ankle. Instead, he claimed he had been left with ongoing pain and restriction of movement in his right ankle.
How did the defendant respond?
The doctors who treated the plaintiff claimed that following their usual practice, they would have explained that the man's injuries were too severe for surgery on his right ankle. There were a range of handwritten medical notes suggesting that the defendant's employees had followed correct protocol and informed the patient of these risks.
What did the court decide?
Having seen the medical notes and concluding that all of the defendant's employees were credible witnesses, the court was satisfied that they had informed the plaintiff of such reasons why they couldn't perform surgery to his right ankle. As a result, the man's claim was dismissed.
Proving a breach of duty of care can be tricky in medical negligence cases like the above. If you're wondering what your options are, get in touch with the legal experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners. We can work through your case and see if you're eligible for compensation.