NSW medical negligence case shows how important consent forms are for doctors

Date: Oct 16, 2013

If doctor's fail to appropriately complete all consent forms and necessary documentation, it can lead to serious medical negligence claims, as was seen in one recent New South Wales Court of Appeal case.

In September the NSW court heard the case of Paul V Cooke, which the plaintiff, Mrs Paul, filed after radiologist Dr Cooke allegedly missed the diagnosis of a berry aneurysm back in 2003.

Mrs Paul claimed that Dr Cooke was negligent in not spotting the health condition, and that the failed diagnosis led to serious complications during a later surgery, which took place in 2006. The surgery was performed by a separate doctor, and during the operation the aneurysm ruptured and caused irreversible damage.

Rather than blaming the doctor who performed the surgery, Mrs Paul sued Dr Cooke, claiming he was responsible for her permanent condition.

However, by the end of the litigation, the NSW court ruled that Dr Cooke was not in fact liable for the damages Mrs Paul suffered during the surgery, which took place years later.

Understanding the complexities of medical negligence claims

The court decided that the aneurysm's actual rupture, which caused Mrs Paul's disabilities, was a risk that existed long before Dr Cooke ever examined Mrs Paul. Therefore, the risk could not be created or even exacerbated by the doctor's missed diagnosis.

It's important to note the court found that even if Dr Cooke had appropriately identified the aneurysm, the health problems that warranted Mrs Paul's later surgery would still prompt her to willingly undergo the procedure.

Logic follows that the only way to lower the risk of the aneurysm rupturing would have been if Mrs Paul had opted out of the voluntary procedure.

Experts say the case is a great example of how a medical negligence claim can revolve around the information a patient is given and whether or not all consent forms are in the right order. It's imperative for doctors to make sure their patients know all the risks before going through with a procedure.

The court may have found Dr Cooke clear of any wrongdoing, but there have been several cases in which medical professionals are indeed negligent in their work. In these instances, it's important to get in touch with medical negligence lawyers to understand all legal options that are available.

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