Medical negligence: Consent form non-English speaking patients

Date: Oct 19, 2016

A case from 2015 has illuminated the requirement for doctors to ensure that clients are aware of the risks they face when undergoing surgery, no matter the language they speak. While the case failed on appeal, it is a reminder that even if you speak only limited English, you are entitled to adequate information. 

If you believe you did not receive this and suffered injuries due to the negligence of a doctor, you can seek a compensation settlement.

George v Biggs

The patient was a Macedonian speaker with a limited grasp of English. In 2009, she was diagnosed with a right sided acoustic neuroma (tumour) of the vestibular nerve. After four consultations, Ms George underwent a procedure to remove the tumour. Unfortunately, during the course of the procedure, a facial nerve was severed leaving the patient with irreparable facial palsy. 

In 2012, the patient began legal action against the surgeon and St Vincent's Hospital Sydney, seeking damages for negligence. The patient's case was based on the argument that she was not provided with the information she needed to make an informed choice whether to undergo surgery or not. It was also argued that the doctor was negligent for severing the nerve. 

While the second argument was not successful, the first argument was successful in the initial trial and led to a $331,000 settlement. 

Adequate information for partial English speakers

The consultations that took place prior to the operation utilised the skills of interpreters to ensure that the patient understood. In the first two, a friend acted as an interpreter, while the second pair of consultations involved a professional and accredited interpreter. 

Patients undergoing treatment have a right to not only receive information, but that the information is conveyed in a manner that is understood by the patient. For those with a limited understanding of English, this means that a satisfactory process must be implemented to ensure this happens. 

If an accredited translator is not used during consultation, there is a possibility that a judge will see this as negligence and rule in your favour. A compensation settlement can help you cover any medical care bills building up or ensure that if you cannot work, you are not left out to dry. 

If you would like to know more, make sure you talk to the experts in medical negligence claims. Contact a compensation lawyer today

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.