Medical negligence is a failure to exercise an accepted standard of care from a medical professional, resulting in injury, damage or loss, sometimes even death. Unfortunately, seeking compensation is not always straightforward, as Hoh Chin Cha, Managing Director of Hoh Law Corporation, explains.
Has there been an increase in medical negligence claims in Singapore?
Yes, the number of these claims in Singapore has increased by approximately 25 to 30 percent over the last five years. The vast majority of these are not reported in the media as they’re often settled out of court.
What’s the reason for a rise in these claims?
A rise in claims against healthcare providers doesn’t necessarily mean deterioration in the standard of care. Instead, people are simply more aware of their rights. It’s now widespread knowledge that a doctor’s failure to exercise reasonable care may result in a financial claim against the doctor or hospital concerned.
Is it hard to bring a claim against a doctor or hospital? Why?
There are inherent difficulties in obtaining expert witnesses for a medical negligence claim. Singaporean doctors are usually reluctant to testify against their counterparts, yet the costs involved in getting overseas doctors to testify can be daunting. Sometimes, in order to save both time and expense, law firms may choose to make discreet enquiries with doctors.
What specific operations or procedures pose the biggest threats of negligence?
Any operation or treatment has potential threats or risks which doctors may be liable for if they fail to exercise appropriate care. As the practice of plastic surgery is often the most subjective, patients are more likely to allege negligence when the surgery outcome is not to their satisfaction.
What is your advice to anyone who feels they have been a victim of medical negligence?
Patients are often directed to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for complaints against a doctor’s ethical misconduct or negligence. However, the SMC may take a long time to conclude their investigations, and the patient may be timebarred from bringing a medical negligence suit in court once the three-year statutory limitation period expires. This issue was highlighted in the recent High Court Judgment of Lam Kwok Tai Leslie V. Singapore Medical Council, where the judges had urged the SMC to review their procedures in order to reduce delays in filing medical negligence suits.
If you feel that you’ve been a victim of medical negligence and wish to claim for damages, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice. Many lawyers today would be prepared to give a free consultation to assess the merits of your case.
Hoh Law Corporation
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