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)
    • For example: Where a pregnant lady’s water breaks, but active labour has not kicked in yet, the nurses, gynaecologists or doctors who turned her away or suggested for her to go home and wait for signs of labour or infection, should properly explain the risks of the suggested option and the long-term implications of it. Failure to inform the patient of such risks is a breach of their duty and thereby liable for medical negligence.
  • 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 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)

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