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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
  • Chiropractors
  • Doctors
  • Hospitals
  • Nurses
  • Specialists
  • Therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Dentists
  • Lab Technicians
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Surgeons
  • 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 [2019] – 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 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)

Side Notes

  • 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
  • Pharmaceuticals
    • Existing drug allergy
    • Examples of current COVID 19 vaccines, if patients react adversely to the drugs

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