Calling for an inquiry into medical error
You might have noticed in the recent press that Johnston Withers’ Managing Director, Graham Harbord, has called for an inquiry into the Royal Adelaide Hospital chemotherapy bungle.
This issue came to our attention when a client approached our firm to advise that he had been a victim of a dosage mistake while being treated for leukemia. (He was given only half the approved dose.) Given that he was extremely (and terminally) ill when he first made contact, our client was not in position to sue the State for its error. We were able to quickly negotiate a small settlement for him and for his wife, to bring some comfort before he died.
As a result of ongoing lobbying, the State Government recently decided to make ex gratia payments to all patients affected by the treatment errors at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. That enabled us to lodge a further claim on behalf of our client, after his death, to ensure his family received their full entitlement under the ex gratia scheme.
Johnston Withers is now calling for a full inquiry into what went wrong at the hospital. The aim of the inquiry would be twofold. Firstly it is important to investigate what went wrong at the hospital and to ensure safeguards are in place for future chemotherapy treatment. But it is also important to ensure that, when errors are made, the compensation system is fair.
Under the current court system, terminally ill patients (like our client) often don’t have time to lodge a claim and then negotiate their way through a slow legal system. As a result they can feel under pressure to accept a low offer of compensation. We are calling for a fairer system – with a much faster process – for terminally ill claimants.
‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is the old saying. Never truer than in these circumstances. We need to find a better way.