There are many reasons why medical negligence claims have increased dramatically over the past few years in South Africa, ranging from a doctor having to treat more patients than he can handle because the hospitals are understaffed, a doctor is not being paid enough money in the public sector, to patients being fed up with bad service and the violation of their rights as patients according to the Patients Rights Charter.
While it is not always easy to lodge a claim against any professional, many people find the thought of lodging a medical negligence claim against their doctor a daunting task. Medical malpractice lawyers specialise in medical law and malpractice, and with their knowledge and expertise they will be able to advise you on whether you have a strong enough case or not.
Your lawyer will also be able to advise you on what type and the amount of damages you can claim for, if any. Sometimes patients are merely seeking an apology from the doctor and other times they seek claims amounting to hundreds and thousands of rands, sometimes even millions – depending on the case.
In South Africa, medical malpractice claims can be made against individuals like nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, psychologists, anaesthetists, and even hospitals. Whether you lodge a claim against an individual or against an entire hospital will depend on the employment contract between the individual and the hospital.
Examples of medical negligence claims in South Africa include:
- The wrong diagnosis
- A medical instrument left behind in a patient’s body after surgery
- A patient not treated fast enough
- The wrong medication has been prescribed
- The patient’s wrong body part has been amputated
South Africa has a public health system that is way below par and standard, the door for medical malpractice claims are left wide open. Unfortunately, those patients who fall victim to medical negligence in the public health system are usually unable to afford legal representation and slip through the cracks in South Africa.
The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is there to protect the rights of patients and guide the medical professionals of this country. The Council encourages victims of medical negligence to lodge a complaint through their system.
Patients in South Africa are not always aware of their rights and often don’t even realise they were treated in a negligent manner. If patients were more aware of their rights, the amount of medical malpractice claims may either rise even more or become less because doctors and other medical professionals are finally treating patients with the care and respect they deserve.
Even though the negligent act happened while a person was a patient at a hospital, and the patient suffers or die at home because of the negligent act, the patient can still claim by lodging a medical negligence complaint against their doctor.
When a person is admitted to hospital and becomes a patient, the staff at that hospital is under contractual duty to treat patients according to a certain set of standards as set out by the law in South Africa. If a patient is treated below standard, a medical negligence claim can be lodged