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This is our blog.  It contains most posts Julian makes at his own blog http://www.westaustralianmedicalnegligence.com, along with posts relating to the firm specifically: If Julian can convince them to do so, it will also include blogs by other staff!

The Value of an Apology.. its more than you may think!

In several cases concluded in the last month or 2 of 2013, I have again been reminded of the remarkable ‘value’ of an expression of regret by health professionals in two recent cases.

In the first, following a mediation in the court, very much to his credit, the GP defendant at my request, but without obligation, expressed regret to a client whose wife died following late diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer.  I am convinced that my client obtained infinitely greater comfort and closure in relation to the issue from this expression of regret than the relatively modest monetary compensation to be paid for his psychological suffering due to his wife’s foreshortened palliative care period.

Similarly, in a Coronial Inquest  in which I appeared for family of an elderly but active fellow who died as a consequence of inguinal hernia surgery, the fact the GP anaesthetist involved unambiguously demonstrated sadness at what had occurred and illustrated the emotional impact his patient’s death had had upon him,  had a profound effect on the deceased family members concerned.

In neither of these two cases was the expression of regret coupled with, or implicitly involving any admission of culpability (morally or legally).  This is in my experience almost always of secondary importance to the patient and family.  The important point both cases demonstrate is the ‘humanness” of the health professional and that the adverse outcome has, as ought be expected, impacted upon them, perhaps causing reflection and even perhaps, a change in future practice.

A lesson I think that health professionals and their insurers would do well to heed.

Settlement of Medical Negligence Claims: where is the point of no return? Part 2

Following on from my earlier post, because of the uncertainty that remains as to when a settlement becomes binding, if there is urgency, the uncertainty should be removed by express agreement.  This is illustrated by a case resolved a month or so ago for  a 59 year-old woman tragically suffering from terminal cancer.

Her claim related to a failure to arrange follow-up on a colonoscopy she had undergone in early 2007.  Histopathology from the colonoscopy demonstrated pre-cancerous changes and ought to have prompted follow up and further investigation. By the time of my client’s diagnosis with cancer in late 2011, no effective treatment was possibly and she was receiving palliative care.

The case was settled on reasonable terms at a mediation conference in April 2013.  The defendant and its insurer deserve considerable credit, given this was arranged on an expedited basis because of our client’s precarious health.

Because of my client’s ill health I was careful enough to stipulate that the settlement of the claim was to take effect immediately at the mediation and not to be subject to completion of settlement documents etc.

Very tragically, our client died on the Friday following the mediation conference. No opportunity existed for her to sign the relevant settlement documents before her death, though we spoke to her + so she knew the settlement that was achieved.

Fortunately (if there can be any fortune in such situation), given the term of the settlement mentioned above, the relevant compensation payment will still be made and will provide considerable benefit to our client’s immediate family.