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Legal matters with medical lawyer Sally Gleeson

Sally Gleeson discussing medical law on 2GB

CS – Chris Smith/SG – Sally Gleeson /C1,2,3, etc – Callers 


Announcer     And now, Legal Matters with Turner Freeman Lawyers: great people; great results; great value.

CS       The medical theme continues – we’ve been discussing this euthanasia bill, and prior to that, the NDIS – and now medical law in our Turner Freeman Legal Matters segment today – and if you’ve got a question, step right up: 131 873 is the telephone number. And there is a story today that I’ll put to Sally Gleeson, who’s a partner in the Turner Freeman Sydney office, in just a second. In the Australian Newspaper, there have cases of patients dying while surgeons have been on leave. Now, what do the families do about that, and is there any grounds for some kind of – I guess – consolation in terms of compensation; we’ll talk to her about that. But if you’ve got a question – doesn’t matter what it’s related to, as long as it’s somewhere in the realm of medical law: 131 873. And I’ve got that $100 Westfield voucher to give away as well, thanks to Turner Freeman, and we’ll give that away to a caller between now and 2 o clock. And Turner Freeman Lawyers provide a range of specialised legal services including: compensation and negligence law; asbestos litigation; superannuation and disability claims; family and employment law; wills and estate, and property law. Their Queensland offices are in Brisbane, Logan, North Lakes, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns. New South Wales offices in the Sydney CBDParramatta, Campbelltown, Penrith, Newcastle and Wollongong. As I said, Sally Gleeson, a partner in the Turner Freeman Sydney office, specialises in medical negligence litigation. We’ll take your calls as soon as we can on 131 873. Sally, welcome to the program once again.

SG      Thanks, Chris

CS       Let’s get to that story today that we found on page 7 of the Australian. There have been cases of patients dying while surgeons have been on leave. Now, without going into the long-winded explanation for certain cases, what are the families’ entitled to if that would have occurred – firstly, that you’d be grief stricken if you thought that an operation didn’t take place because someone was in New York somewhere?

SG      Correct, I mean it depends on the circumstances – it’s considered to be like any other legal case. You have to prove what you need to prove. So, if in fact, these patients didn’t get the treatment that they needed in a timely manner, and if this is stroke it’s obviously an ailment that needs emergency treatment, you can’t wait-

CS       Yeah.

SG      -then the families almost certainly can prove that the hospital was negligent. And the families are entitled to the relief that they deserve depending on how things pan out for them.

CS       Hm, it would be a small consolation after losing someone – but at the same time, if they were given some indication prior to a surgeon going on leave that they were in a really serious state, that would be evidence in itself, surely.

SG      Absolutely. I mean it’s not for the patient to worry about it. I mean, obviously something happened, and how it could have happened is beyond belief. I mean, this is obviously, if it in fact happened, is an example of substandard management practices: poor communication, resource breakdown. So it’s not for the patient to worry about whether the hospital is short staffed or not – you’re expected, when you go to a hospital, to receive the treatment that you deserve, and the standard is the standard, regardless of the particular situation or circumstance of the hospital – that’s irrelevant.

CS       Yeah, tough one. All right, Glen from Gordon, go right ahead – Sally is listening.

C1       Yes, thanks. Um, yeah – I was just, um, yeah, I uh, I got diagnosed with cancer about December 2015, and about 4 months prior to that, I saw a GP and presented with some symptoms, and she basically completely missed it, and I was just wondering – yeah, I suppose you may have to know more details, but yeah-

SG      Do you – I mean, just from listening from what you’ve said, I’m always hearing stories, unfortunately, about late cancer diagnosis, and as you say, it depends on the circumstances. So obviously, ultimately, you were diagnosed by someone and you received the treatment that you needed, and obviously you’re doing okay now, is that right?

C1       Yes, yes – that’s right. I had it removed the following week, and had just been –yeah, just had some, um, immunotherapy a couple of times.

SG      Sure.

C1       Yeah, and it was actually bladder cancer, and yeah – I presented with some pretty obvious symptoms apparently, and the doctor missed it, and that was about 4 months prior, so I had it for probably 4 months longer than I should’ve.

SG      Sure. So, the test is not just ‘missing’, the test is ‘damage as a result of missing’. So Glen, you’ve got to prove that as a result of the GP – if in fact the GP should have and didn’t – you have to prove that you’ve suffered an injury as a result of that misdiagnosis, or late diagnosis. So, 4 months of pain or grief is probably not a case that’s worth bringing in circumstances where ultimately you were treated, and now you’re back to the position that you would have been had you been treated in a timely manner. So it’s not just 1 test, it’s several tests that all have to be met in conjunction.

C1       Right, right. So it’s the fact that I’m sort of cancer free now and-

SG      Yes, yes – unless you say to me that you’ve been impacted in some way long term, and had you received the treatment when you should have, your outcome would have been better, or your chances, on the balance of probabilities, of receiving better treatment meant that you would have been – you know – better off now. So, it’s very difficult with cancer, even though early diagnosis is key, ultimately, if it’s not a long period, if it’s not years of late diagnosis, people normally get that treatment and they get there in the end.

CS       All right glen, I want to get onto some other callers, but why don’t we put you back through to Hansel and maybe we could give you a number to get in contact with Sally if you wanted to take it further. Thank you very much for your call, 131 873. Marianne, hi.

C2       Hello, um, I want to know about hip replacements and revision surgery. Had two bilateral hip replacements which were metal-on-metal type, and looked into it once before and I know one of them’s ‘Stryker’ – I can’t remember what the other one was. And I think they said at the time, they weren’t handling Stryker claims or something like that. But anyway, I’ve got to have revision surgery which is both of them, and I’m wondering how that goes with regards to some sort of compensation.

SG      How are you going now, Marianne, after the revision?

C2       It’s been – I haven’t had the revision yet-

SG      Oh, okay.

C2       I’m on the list to see the specialist, but it’s been a long 9 years, I can say that.

SG      Okay. And the actual implant – the actual product – have you been told that it was defective? Have you been told there’s been an issue with it?

C2       They won’t tell me too much – um, I’ve got the documents under FOI-

SG      Yes.

C2       And um, nobody-

SG      Okay, I can help you with that; I can look at the records-

CS       Documents are good.

SG      Yes. So that’s a start. So if I can look at the documents which, uh – and I’ll obtain your details off air, and I can look at them, and I can carefully understand what happened and then I can give you some advice about that.

C2       Yeah okay. And the fact that I have now been told that I have to have revision surgery, I mean that’s just all over again now. Need to go again.

SG      Yes, absolutely.

CS       And something you don’t want to have to go through, I can imagine.

C2       No. No, I’d rather die first, I think! [laughs]

CS       [laughs] Marianne, stay right on line and well get you in contact with Sally, off-air. And thank you very much for your call. Angelo?

C3       Oh, hi folks, how are you?

CS       Oh, we’re well.

C3       Unfortunately, my father-in-law passed away at the start of the year. Initially he’d been in a hospital with mild pneumonia – recovered from that, and was advised to go to a rehab hospital just to get back on his feet. While he was at the rehab hospital – he was only there 4 days – they x-rayed him one day and the results as far as they told us, were all fine; he was looking good – and basically, passed away the next day. On further – I mean, we were in shock at the time, I didn’t really look at the x-ray result […]. About a month later, I had a look at them, and the x-rays said that he was showing signs of cardiac failure: major damage to his heart, and et cetera, whereas they told us that day that he was fine – and I mean, we got cranky with him because we said, “dad, you gotta go and exercise,” and basically he was dead the next day.

CS       Oh.

C3       They told us he was ready to exercise and to encourage him.

SG      Sure. I’m really sorry, Angelo, about what happened. I mean, the fact that he was transferred to a rehab facility tells me exactly what you’re saying, that they gave him the ‘all clear’ and he was there just to sort of recoup and go home. Obviously, there was an underlying problem that wasn’t diagnosed, and he should have remained in hospital and he should have received some further treatment. So it’s something that we have to look into. You know, it’s unusual for this to occur – it’s certainly uncommon, and if it could have been prevented then I can certainly help you.

C3       No, I mean the fact that looking at the x-ray, it seemed like it was quite bad – and I mean, even if they […] “you know, your father-in-law’s very bad; we need to get him to hospital”, at least we could have spent time on him – with him, sorry.

CS       Have you done anything about seeking some kind of explanation or recourse over this?

C3       Well, I initially – I went back to the rehab place and they assured me that they didn’t know what had happened, and then its only been recently after we’ve got over the shock of it all that I actually had a look at the x-rays and then thought to myself, “well, what the hell is going on here?”

CS       Yeah, exactly. Well let’s do the same thing with you, Angelo, and get you in contact with Sally after the program, because, you know, now that you’ve got over the grief, you can probably handle any kind of procedure that needs to happen legally. But I’ve also got a $100 Westfield voucher for you Angelo, because we’re quite sad that you lost your dad through this shock – and it is a shock. So $100 Westfield voucher to you, Angelo. Stay on line, can you?

C3       Thanks very much, Chris.

CS       No, no, no problems. Stay right there. Very, very sad outcome. 11 minutes to 2 o’clock, back with Sally Gleeson and your calls, right here on the Legal Matters segment. At the beginning of the segment, I was discussing with Sally this story that’s come out of South Australia and reported in the Australian today about patients dying while surgeons have been on leave, and they related to stroke. I want to go to Mark right now, because he has a story about some symptoms – stroke symptoms – that were occurring in hospital, and it’s something that Sally may be able to answer. Go ahead, Mark.

C4       Thanks. Hello, Sally. A couple of years ago, I suffered stroke symptoms at home after work, and I recognised them as stroke symptoms – as in my speech was slurred, a weakness in my limbs, and I felt a really dizzy feeling in my head. I presented myself at the hospital and told them I thought I was suffering a stroke and they – the hospital which…am I allowed to say which hospital?

SG      Uh, probably not – not for now [laughing].

C4       [laughing] All right. Anyway, it was a large […] hospital and I didn’t know – at the time, they didn’t have an MRI machine – a nearby private hospital did, and I had private cover, and they had an agreement to use that, but they gave me a CT scan and said I didn’t have any sign of damage to my brain and discharged me. And next day, I went back to the doc’s – I was still suffering these, and he sent me straight to a private hospital. And that night I was paralysed and couldn’t speak-

CS       [sighs]

C4       -and I was in intensive care, so they have a clot-buster drug – which would change you from having a stroke to having a TIA – is about 3 hours, you’ve got to have it within of suffering the symptoms.

SG      Yes.

C4       So I ended up with permanent damage. I can’t work, I’m – uh, I’ve got large deficiencies in my ability to perform normal tasks, and that was because, basically, went to some place I – that didn’t have an MRI machine – there’s types of stroke, an ischemic and an aneurysm, I had an ischemic stroke which is the clots and the CT scan won’t pick that up-

CS       And now, have you done anything, Mark, about going back to the hospital to discuss the case?

C4       Um, my niece was working as a clerk for a judge at the time – he thought I had a case and suggested seeing – seeking legal advice, but I was told by the recommended legal people that it was too difficult to prove-

CS       All right, well let’s get Sally onto this, she – we’ve only got 45 seconds, but Sally Gleeson?

SG      The signs of a stroke that you’re describing are not something that any doctor can’t diagnose – any doctor who’s properly trained and that’s what doctors do, so I’m shocked. I’m shocked that you were told that, you know, it’s not worth pursuing – it’s definitely worth looking into and investigating, and I’m happy to help you. Particularly when you’ve suffered permanent damage and you can’t work. Can I ask your age please?

C4       I’m 58.

SG      58. So this happened when you were about 56?

C4       That’s right.

SG      Yes, okay. So you had at least 10 years working life ahead of you, and I assume you were working and-

C4       I was working, I was ended up, uh, put off from – medically – unable to continue work.

CS       Okay, all right, Mark I’ll put you in contact with Sally off-air – stay right there, and thank you very much for your call. Sally Gleeson, thank you very much for coming in this afternoon, we got through some calls today, and some material. Sally Gleeson, Turner Freeman Legal Matters each and every Tuesday afternoon.


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