1. What is medical negligence?
- Where a health care professional fails to exercise an accepted standard of care that resulted in injury or even death.
- This could arise in 2 ways, be it in the form of a diagnosis, giving medical advice and/or treatment:
- Commission: A positive act; or
- Omission: The failure to act
2. How long do I have to submit a medical negligence claim?
- Typically, the time limit is 3 years from the time the patient came to know of the medical negligence, and a claim must be brought within those 3 years.
- Once the limitation kicks in, you will be time barred to claim for medical negligence.
3. What is the process of making a medical negligence claim?
- Provide us a brief summary of your claim and one of our lawyers will assess if: –
- you are time-barred to commence a claim,
- the prospects of the case and/or
- the potential value of the claim
4. How long will a medical negligence claim take?
- Depending on various factors such as:
- Complexity of the case
- Severity of injuries
- Number of parties involved
- Whether the other party accepts liability
- The time taken for other party to get back to us with the medical reports and clinical notes
5. Do I have to make a complaint to the respective authorities first?
- Not necessarily, but the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) is responsible for the regulation of medical professionals in Singapore and they will conduct the necessary investigations based on the complaints.
- The SMC is quite restricted in getting patients the recourse and compensation they seek, hence, litigation may be necessary.
6. Who can I sue?
- Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners
- Lab Technicians
- Any other medical professionals that performed below the medical standard of care expected of them
- Pharmaceutical companies
- If you are unsure whether you have a claim, please speak with one of our lawyers
7. How can my dentist be liable?
- Similar to other medical professionals as discussed, dentists owe their patients similar standard of care.
- Some common examples of dental negligence would be:
- Nerve, gum and tongue injury
- Delayed or wrong diagnosis
- Cosmetic procedures that went wrong
- Procedures that resulted in damage or loss of teeth
- Oral cancer misdiagnosis
8. Can my hospital and staff be liable? If so, how?
- Vicarious liability:
- Through the negligence of doctors /staff employed under the hospital/people with special relationship with the hospital.
- For example: A hospital or medical institution can be vicariously liable for giving wrong medication/dosage to patients, failing to record or report symptoms and readings of patients.
- Duty to inform patients:
- To give patients sufficient advice and information
- Doctors/medical staff should not withhold patient’s medical information from them, unless it is justified to do so (Necessity/therapeutic privilege)
- Systemic negligence / Institutional liability
- Real life case of Noor Azlin v CGH  – No proper system in place for comprehensive management of patients, resulting in breach of duty owed to the patient
- Non-delegable duty
- Mistake of anybody along the chain will make the hospital liable
- For example: Nurses, technicians, radiographer
- Emergency medicine/attention setting
- A&E staff are expected to have a different approach than regular doctors or specialists
- Focusing predominantly on the emergency present before them, and not the incidental findings
- However, they have a duty to advise patient to follow up on those findings.
9. If my doctor verbally apologised for something he/she did wrong, do I have a claim?
- It would be better to have it in writing.
- an independent expert’s professional opinion on the mistake made by the doctor.
10. What if my doctors do not admit they have done something wrong/evade my queries, can I still make a claim?
- We, as your lawyers, will gather the evidence for you by writing to the respective doctors/ hospitals for your medical reports and relevant clinical notes.
11. What kind mistakes can happen in the medical setting?
- There are many different mistakes that can happen across the vast areas of medical practice.
- A few e.gs are
- Wrong diagnosis of condition
- Giving wrong medication
- Failing to do due diligence on the patient (For example: Allergies, pre-existing /hereditary conditions)
- Failing to administer the medication properly
- Performed a wrong operation/operated on wrong body parts
- Did not anticipate/foresee a problem which they reasonably should have
12. What kind of liability can arise in the A&E setting?
- Real life example: Noor Azlin v CGH
- Patient arrived at A&E complaining of chest pain, physician noted opacity in R lung, but patient was discharged without follow up
- Heart attacks being mistaken for indigestion.
13. What if I don’t have any reports or evidence to support my claims?
- You need not worry about evidence or lack thereof.
- Come to speak with one of our lawyers to see how we can build your claim.
14. If I signed a consent form, does that mean I waived my rights to sue for medical negligence?
- Just because you signed a consent form does not mean that you have absolved your claim for medical negligence.
- A patient may have given consent for medical procedures to be performed on them, but it does not mean that they consent to be subjected to medically negligent treatment.
15. Can I sue pharmaceutical companies for my injuries sustained from taking their medication?
- Pharmaceutical companies can similarly be liable for medical negligence as they owe their consumers duty of care.
- Their negligence could arise in 4 different ways:
- Improperly manufactured/defective drugs – this includes failure to properly test for side effects or conduct safety testing before releasing the medication to the market
- Drugs that were not prescribed properly. For example: Not indicating if the particular medication/drugs will have harmful interaction with other medications, or if it will trigger allergy response to patients who are allergic to certain components of the drugs
- The prescriptions are not properly filled, pharmacists or chemists have the duty to review the prescription, confirming the doctor’s instructions and giving the right doses to the patients; and
- Failure to advise consumers on the long-term consequences of their medication: ensuring that the labels on the medication are accurate and appropriate warnings such as allergies, side effects and other drugs interactions are properly labelled
- We can instruct overseas lawyers (For example: USA, Australia, Canada) on this area.
16. Can I sue for wrong/unnecessary treatment?
- Real life example: A local hospital that gave 90 breast cancer patients unnecessary treatment
- In this instance of a medical body, the key is to determine how the error was made in the first place. For example: The fault of the technician for running the wrong test, medical staff for administering on the wrong patient or was it a systemic/ institutional error in the running or administration of the tests
- In this case: Wrong test results as a result of wrong test used
- Another point of claim: how serious is the mistreatment
- For example: Does it cause persistent and irreversible effects? How severe are they
- Another point: how much did these treatments cost?
- In the KTPH case: Each treatment costs upwards of $10,000
17. Can I sue the hospital/facility/doctor if I am still undergoing treatments there?
- You should be not treated any differently by your doctors or hospital as a result of a pending claim of medical negligence against them.
- If you feel uncomfortable about receiving ongoing medical attention from someone you are making a claim against, you may request for another doctor to be assigned to you instead.
18. How do I tell if I have a case against the doctors/hospitals?
- When you suffered injury as a result of a doctor/hospital staff’s act or omission that fell below the standard required of them.
- Come to speak with one of our lawyers so that we can assess the strength and merits of your matter.
19. Can I opt for out of court settlement or will I have to go to court?
- Majority of medical negligence claims will reach a successful settlement without the need for litigation, bearing in mind that each case varies from the other.
- In instances where parties could not reach a settlement, it would be necessary to present the claim before the court.
- Alternatively, parties may opt for mediation.
20. Do I have to accept their offer?
- You should not accept any offers until you have received legal advice from us.
21. What can I claim and how much can I claim for the injuries suffered as a result of medical negligence?
- Depending on the injury suffered and the severity, which our lawyers will assess and explain to you during your preliminary meeting with us:
- Pain & suffering
- Loss of earning capacity (if applicable)
- Loss of Earnings
- Future medical expenses
- Further procedures
22. Can I bring a claim on behalf of my family or deceased?
- Deceased: The properties and affairs of a deceased person are known as their “estate” and the claim can be brought on behalf the deceased’s estate.
- For any pain and suffering experienced by the deceased due to the medical negligence.
- Dependency claim can also be made
- If you have just lost a loved one and are not sure what to do, our lawyers will be able to advise on your claim and help you obtain the best possible financial outcome
- Family (For example: Child or mentally incapacitated persons)
- Anyone below 18 years old cannot bring a claim in their own right and therefore will require someone to act on their behalf
- For those who lost the mental capacity to make decision for themselves: have a chat with our lawyers to see how we can assist you to explore other legal options for your claim for medical negligence
23. What should I bring for my consultation with the lawyers for a potential medical negligence claim?
- All relevant medical reports, medical history
- any correspondence between the patient and the doctor/ hospital
- referral letters (if any)
- Patients themselves should also be smart, do their own due diligence to make informed choices of their own.
- Should not make the mistake of too trusting /over reliant on what the doctors or medical professionals says.
- Blood transfusion: Sue blood bank/ HSA for giving tainted blood, blood with HIV + or wrong blood type.
- Medical tourism: travelling out of country of residence for purposes of receiving medical treatment/care.
- Where you get injured vs where you are from – so which jurisdiction will prevail?
- Lex loci: Law of the country where the tort is committed
- Lex fori: Law of the forum, choice of law/jurisdiction
- What we can do: assess your claim and damages, see which jurisdiction will be better for your claim
- Alternatively, we can appoint and instruct foreign lawyers, depending on the lex fori, for your claim
- Existing drug allergy
- Examples of current COVID 19 vaccines, if patients react adversely to the drugs