A man has accused medical practitioners of covering up negligence and using the legal system to avoid scrutiny of their actions.
The individual, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the Newcastle Herald that his wife died of skin cancer, but doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed her condition until it was too late.
He argued that out-of-court settlements often involve non-disclosure agreements preventing plaintiffs from talking about their case in public, otherwise they could lose their compensation.
"The medical profession has acted reprehensibly. They have gone to great lengths, just like the churches before them, to protect reputations at the expense of those they are supposedly there to protect," he stated.
The man is referring to sexual abuse within the church, which a recently completed Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse suggested was covered up by organisations to protect offenders.
Proving medical negligence claims
In NSW, medical negligence claims are governed under the Civil Liability Act, and plaintiffs must show that a medical practitioner breached their duty of care.
This can be difficult to prove, particularly as doctors risk becoming ostracised or bullied if they criticise the actions of colleagues. As such, corroborating instances of negligence with witness testimony may not be possible.
Bullying and harassment among medical practitioners was recently the focus of a Senate inquiry into the medical complaints process.
A 2015 report from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' Expert Advisory Group found that discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying were "pervasive and serious problems" in surgical departments across Australia and New Zealand.
According to the man whose wife allegedly suffered from medical negligence, preventing the public exposure of doctors for their failings stops the industry from learning important lessons.
"This means other patients of these doctors aren't warned. And there's no publicly available record of their incompetence," he stated.
Medical negligence in Australia
Historically, Australia has one of the worst records globally for medical negligence incidents.
A 2005 report from the World Health Organization revealed 'adverse events' occurred in 16.6 per cent of hospital admissions, around half of which were deemed preventable.
A more recent study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found there were 13,666 medical negligence claims either newly launched, currently ongoing or reopened in the country, excluding WA, in 2012-13.
Clearly, medical negligence remains a problem in the country and patients should seek professional advice if they want to learn more about their eligibility for compensation.
Do you think you have suffered an injury due to medical negligence? Don't hesitate to get in touch with Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.