The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) recently reported an increase in complaints from patients, and in the number of doctors found guilty of unprofessional conduct, for example refusing to treat patients, misdiagnosing patients, or failing to provide sufficient warning of the risks associated with a procedure or treatment.

Medical professionals must comply with a standard of care, namely to treat their patients the way that any other reasonable medical provider with the same qualifications would do. Should their conduct fall below the established standard of care, they are guilty of medical negligence.

Examples of medical negligence include:

  • Administering the wrong type or dose of a medication;
  • Making surgical mistakes, including surgery on the wrong site, leaving medical instruments behind during a procedure, and cutting unintended tissues;
  • Interpreting test and lab results incorrectly;
  • Making the wrong diagnosis or treating a condition inappropriately; and
  • Nurses failing to communicate new patient symptoms, complaints or concerns to doctors and other medical professionals.

Negligence does not always result in complications, injury or death but, when it does, it becomes a case of medical malpractice, provided there is proof of harm or loss.

Four elements need to be proved:

The following four elements, which together comprise negligence, must be present in order to prove medical malpractice:

  1. Physicians, health-care professionals or providers had a duty to provide health care to a specific patient or patients.
  2. Health-care professionals or facilities failed to provide the standard of medical care.
  3. This failure to provide the standard of medical care resulted in harming the patient or patients.
  4. The patient or patients must be able to prove that there were damages, such as loss of eyesight, loss of use of limbs, or loss of the ability to work, and subsequent financial implications.

We commonly argue the following cases:

  • Medical malpractice resulting in cerebral palsy
  • Medical malpractice resulting in Down’s syndrome
  • Medical malpractice resulting in retinopathy of prematurity
  • Medical malpractice resulting in paralysis
  • Medical malpractice resulting in abdominal complications

If you suspect that you have been the victim of medical malpractice and would like advice on how to proceed with a civil case, you can contact us