Q & A on 2GB discussing medical issues 31/5/2016
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
CS – Chris Smith/SG – Sally Gleeson /C1,2,3, etc – Callers
CS Yeah, I’ll get to your calls. Don’t go anywhere. I know people want to talk further about Jackie Lambie’s earning, learning or serving policy. We can talk about that further in just a short moment but there’s been some medical horror stories revealed recently and this is a good time to discuss medical law today. The Daily Mail has reported on cases where patients have been left with needles, swabs and even scissors inside them after surgery. So what do you do legally when you discover that? We are also going to look at what you are entitled to if you’ve been injured and what the limits are on how much you can claim, there are limits. Again we’ve also got that $100 Westfield gift voucher to give away to a caller today. So if you’ve got a question to Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman Lawyers, jump on that open line right now. 131876. Maybe it’s a medical situation that you’ve been through; that you’re considering taking to the next step or you’ve taken it to the next step and you’ve reached an impasse. Maybe Sally can help you with that case as well. 131 873. Sally, thank you very much for coming in.
SG Thanks Chris.
CS All right. A patient left with needles and scissors inside them. If that happened to me, it would be a shock, but then I would like them – the people that put the scissors inside me to make sure they take them out properly and yet I am going to sue the same people. That makes it very very dicey. Like what do you do as an individual do you go elsewhere? Can you go elsewhere or do you take legal action later or do you do it first up?
SG Well first off you need to know about it Chris. I mean, often you don’t feel anything for a while and when you do feel something, you go and see your local doctor and he or she says it’s not something that I can help you with, it might be just one of those things that happens after that particular surgery. So to actually diagnose the problem is the first issue. Patients complain and say they don’t feel very good or something’s not right or I don’t feel well and they’re often you know – not given the proper advice and then when you do discover the problem, you’re right. It’s a shady area. Who do you go to? Do you go back to the person who did it? How do you trust that person?
CS Yeah – Yeah.
SG But you have to do something about it. I remember the very first case I did when I was a young junior lawyer was a woman who had open heart surgery and they left surgical scissors in there and for weeks and weeks and months and months and years and years she complained and she was told it was heart burn. She was told you know, it’s one of the recognised risks and complications of that type of open heart surgery. You don’t feel well. You’ll never be 100% and then it was eventually removed, it had travelled elsewhere and of course another set of problems and they are not horror stories you hear about often, but they unfortunately they happen more than you would like.
CS Boy oh boy. Years and years with the problem. That’s phenomenal. 131 873. What entitlements do people have in accordance with the difference legal heads of damage. What………
SG Often people think more so about proving that someone made a mistake and then once we get there they wonder about what they can claim.
SG And just generally speaking I think it is important that people recognise the law has its limitations. I mean the fact that you have suffered an injury in itself isn’t necessarily something that you can claim compensation for in many many circumstances. The injury has to be permanent and it has to be significant. The very first thing that you can claim is compensation for your pain and suffering and that’s the most obvious head of damage. Your loss of enjoyment of life, your inability to function as you did before.
CS Is there a limit on that?
SG There is. So that first worst most catastrophic case imaginable, the most hideous case that you can imagine. The most tragic case in New South Wales since 2002 and the changes to the legislation, the current limit on that – the cap on that is about $594,000. So…. with every percentage as compared to that most extreme case there is a monetary value attached. If you are under 15% of that most catastrophic case you get nothing for pain and suffering in New South Wales.
CS Oh right.
SG So between 0 and 14% you get 0% even if you do have an injury – so unless you’re at 15% …. you don’t rate on that scale.
CS It’s amazing stuff. Let’s go to some callers with some real life cases now. Sharon – go right ahead. Sally is listening.
Caller 1: Sharon
Sharon Ah – you there?
CS Yes – Sharon – Sally is listening – go right ahead.
Sharon I had a spinal surgery and through that I got a voice paralysis because a plate had been dislodged in my throat and I told the doctor on numerous occasions that that was the case and he didn’t believe me. So I insisted on a scan and then he saw what the problem was which is what I told him and 3 years/4 years down the track it was totally disregarded. I went through two lawyers and nothing could be done about it and I actually in the end saw ………. 4th or 3rd operation – I had to go to another doctor to have it – everything fixed but……. I lost my capacity for breathing and it’s just been a nightmare. It really messed up my life.
SG And how are you now Sharon?
Sharon Um, when I don’t force my speech, you can hear the waving in my voice and my breathing is half of what it was before and I also have an autoimmune disease so this whole thing affected me a lot – you know – to run up a hill is just not happening. It’s just affected me.
SG And the lawyers you had seen beforehand, do you understand why they couldn’t help you?
Sharon They said that they couldn’t get a case because the doctors – they all work together – regardless of what they think about the case, they all work together. They will never get a doctor to say that somebody had made a mistake and that was the undoing of my case.
CS But Sharon maybe you’ve gone to the wrong people because you would know Sally – you could get experts to give you an independent analysis of people’s problems – right?
SG That’s exactly right. I mean it’s unfortunate that that’s what you were told. Often that feeling that the lawyers may get but of course you have to deal with the right experts and it’s all about finding the right medical expert whose objective and independent and willing to criticise in circumstances where it’s worthy of criticism..
CS And there are witness experts to do that on a regular basis.
SG Absolutely and they are conservative and they are down the line and they don’t side with one over the other.
CS Sharon how about first of all – I’ll put you in contact with Sally off air and maybe she can give you a little bit more information and maybe you’d like to take up a case with her.
Sharon That’d would be great.
CS Okay – alright. Sally – Sharon is it? That’s good. Sharon stay there and we’ll get her number Gabriella and make sure that Sally and Sharon can have a conversation in the next 24 hours. Richard – go right ahead.
Caller 2 – Richard
Richard Yes – my daughter has had a similar operation. A gastric band surgery and it was going wrong and she complained to the surgeon two to three times and he just kept saying that it’s in your mind, in your mind. In the end she was …… anything she eats, she vomits and then she started to bleed. So she went to her own doctor and had ultrasounds taken and he said there’s something wrong. She went back there and he says ahhh it’s rubbish – don’t care. Then when she started vomiting more blood – he had a look and that band had gone through her stomach – so all above the band was black – so I’ll operate, I’ll take it out – and apparently now the butcher – she’s been to two other specialists – they won’t touch it now. Right – she went to a couple of lawyers and they say – oh no – he’s a renounced surgeon around Penrith and no-one will touch it.
SG How old is your daughter Richard?
Richard Ah, 38 now.
SG Oh, 38. And is she fit enough to speak to me?
Richard She’s not here at the moment.
SG Sure – but at a later time – am I able to talk to her?
Richard Oh yes – she would love to.
CS Because the end result of that story is ………..
Richard yes – 3 major surgeons that did – one of them has done about 5,000 operations.
CS Yes – but this business Richard about oh – the doctor involved is eminent is just not something that you would take into consideration Sally – is it?
SG It’s I mean – it’s human error – if it’s human error – its human error. No-one’s above that.
CS Yes exactly. Richard stay right there – we’ll do the same, we’ll put you through to Gabriella and we’ll make sure that you and your daughter can be in contact with Sally on that case. Ahh, Anin – go right ahead.
Caller 3 – Anin
Anin Hello –
CS Hello – go right ahead.
Anin Yeah – Hi – Look I won’t keep you … this – very quickly, my father went into hospital about 10 months ago with a fractured hip and he contracted a staph infection in his heel and he’s come out with an amputated – like his left leg was amputated and like we’re talking you know – like – have to go from having not being able to walk up and down stairs and you know – I have had to move my parents place – I had to move them out and had to find a place – you know a flat surface sort of thing and you know – and it’s just at the stage where …. you know – I want to know what are my …….sort of options … you know how can they be held liable that sort of thing – the hospital – you know.
SG Yeah – Anin – I mean with staph – I mean unfortunately it’s something that you can contract anywhere and particularly contract anywhere and particularly in public hospitals – sometimes in private hospitals – the thing about staph however is how you treat it – you’ve got to be on to it and then you’ve got to treat it with the right combination of antibiotics and that’s what we look at. We look at it that if that was done – so we have to look at the records. We have to look at what your dad was complaining of and we have to look at whether a proper program was put into place to target the issue that he had.
CS Because it is a regular occurrence this staph infection in certain hospitals. Ah – others more active than other hospitals but you’re right, if Anin could actually prove that what was supposed to have been done wasn’t done – you’ve got a case right?
SG That’s right. So it depends very much on the particular circumstances of your dad’s case.
CS So there’s your option Anin and listen – can I just tell you – I’ll get you that $100 voucher too by the way from Westfield Anin.
Anin Oh wow.
Anin Thank you so much for that.
CS Yeah – nothing too huge but something to get you started and ……..
Anin No, no no – I appreciate it.
CS Good stuff and let’s make sure that we put you in contact with Sally because there may be some options there especially if you get a hold of the records and as Sally said, you know adjudicating as to whether the proper procedures were taken is the point.
Anin Yeah – Look a couple of minutes of her time would be lovely yeah.
CS Okay – all right. Stay right there – I’ll put you in contact with Gabriella right now and she will take your number and we’ll put you in contact with Sally as well. Sally – we’ve run out of time unfortunately. Always a popular segment of yours when it comes to medical mishaps – are you busy at the moment?
CS Very –
CS And even busier after that little segment.
SG Thanks Chris.
CS Thanks again. Fantastic – Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman Lawyers – it’s ten to 2.