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Sally Gleeson discussing medical negligence cases on 2GB

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Deborah Knight Afternoon Show discussing medical negligence - 19 May 2020

Tuesday 19 May 2020 

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DK – Deborah Knight / SG – Sally Gleeson –   C1,2,3, etc – Callers 

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DK      Legal matters, we do it every Tuesday with Turner Freeman Lawyers, maybe you’ve had a dodgy operation, maybe something went wrong while you were in hospital, you’re in more pain now than you were before, you reckon the doctors or hospital should have taken better care.  Medical negligence is the topic we’re talking on legal matters, give us a call on 131873. Sally Gleeson is a partner in the Turner Freeman Sydney office and she’s on the line for us now, hi Sally.

SG      Hi Deborah.

DK      Now, medical negligence we’ve been talking about it when we do our legal matters segment with you regularly, and a lot of people say they’ve been a victim, or think they’ve been a victim of it over the years, is it on the rise, are we seeing more cases of this emerge?

SG      I don’t think it’s on the rise, but I think it’s on the steady. I think unfortunately doctors bi and large do a phenomenal job, we know about the phenomenal job of doctors and the services they provide to our community, particularly in this crisis, but every now and again, and it’s occasional but enough to warrant the intervention of lawyers, some adverse outcome occurs, or someone suffers an injury, and it’s not because of a doctor or a medical practitioner or health care provider doing anything on purpose, it’s just a mistake. So it’s treatment gone wrong, or advice gone wrong, or a service gone wrong, and it’s called negligence and that’s why it’s called medical negligence. Negligence means someone’s made a mistake and someone suffered an injury as a result of that mistake, and that mistake can sometimes cost people’s livelihood, it can turn their life around and it can really necessitate the intervention of a lawyer so that that person thinks about receiving compensation for their injuries.

DK      Yea, and that’s where you step, and that’s why you’re here to take calls today. 131873. John’s on the line for us, hi John. Hi John, are you there?

C1       Yes Deborah.

DK      Hi, what was your question for Sally?

C1       Sally, my mother received a Webster pack and she’s in a home, she’s 95 years old, and apparently they put the wrong medication in her Webster pack and now she’s suffering the consequences of that, and her kidneys are failing, her liver is failing, what sort of ramifications come from that?

SG      That’s terrible. Hi John, it’s Sally. Obviously, being administered the wrong medication can often have terrible consequences, sometimes fatal, obviously, if she was given the wrong medication and that medication has caused her, what you say, kidney failure and a calamity of issues, then that’s something that can be investigated. Obviously they picked up on in, and are they doing anything about it? How’s your mother being treated for the error?

C1       Well she’s in hospital in the Hunter Valley at the moment, and I’m just waiting whether to race down there or not but it doesn’t look really good for her because as I said, she’s 95 years old, and everything’s starting to fail, and she’s just lying there like a vegetable, it’s up to ten thousand at the moment.

DK      Just heartbreaking.

SG      I’m very sorry to hear that John, but it’s going to be something we’re happy to help with, so I’ll speak to you offline about that.

DK      Alright, we’ll pass your details on to Sally, John, if you can hold on the line we’ll get your details to her, that’s definitely something that she can follow up for you.  Kathy’s with us too, hi Kathy.

C2       Oh hi. Yes, I had a hysterectomy a couple of years ago and when I woke up I noticed immediately that I had problems with my feet, my toes were numb. In that ensuing time, no one seems to want to know anything about it, the specialist who operated said “oh that’ll come back” but it never ever did. Something happened during the operation and I apparently had a massive bleed, which I have never ever done before, I’m a bit of an old bird so I’ve had a few operations, but my feet have totally changed shape, so we think that something has been, like nerves or arteries have been cut or something…

DK      So some sort of impact, yea. So Sally, what could Kathy do here, what could be her recourse?

SG      Well Kathy, it happened over two years ago, so whatever you have now seems to be something that you’re going to have for awhile, so it seems permanent, so have you sought the medical opinion of anyone else? Have you spoke to any other independent doctors or sought a second opinion about why this could be? For example, a neurologist?

C2       Well actually my skin specialist has just referred me to a neurologist, because my feet are very, very painful.

DK      So is that the good first step that she should take, Sally?

SG      Yes, absolutely. So the first step is what you’re doing, seeing someone independent, having yourself tested, they do various tests to find out exactly what part of your body is damaged, if it’s a nerve, why and which nerve. It could be trauma or pressure or the way that you were operated on and the way that you were put on the operating table, it could be an impact injury or trauma injury from the way that you were manipulated for example, or it could be, as you say, a bleed that’s caused some sort of impact to a nerve. So you really have to find out and identify why you’re suffering from what you’re suffering, and then we can expand on that in terms of whether there was negligence.

DK      Alright, that sounds like again another case worth exploring, Kathy, let’s hope that you can actually take that first step and perhaps follow through with some legal advice. Lee, what’s your question?

C3       I did IVF, my husband and I had 5 attempts with an IVF clinic and they kept telling us my eggs were good, there was nothing wrong with my husband or anything, so because of my age, I was in my late 30’s, I asked if there was any other tests or anything else we could do, and it was no, no, no, you just have to keep trying. In the end, we ended up changing IVF clinics and went to another one, and we saw a fantastic doctor who tested me out thoroughly and I found out I had cancer.

DK      Oh Lee.

C3       Because of that cancer, none of my previous eggs were taken because the cancer was killing the eggs, so I had to have a hysterectomy within two weeks.

DK      So the chances of having children are gone.

C3       The new doctor found it, so that’s the good thing, but the bad thing is, it’s like I actually rang the doctor because I had to get it off my chest, because to me she was negligent. At my age if you’re not falling pregnant, it’s like a foot. If your foot’s not healing you have to look at it internally and see what’s wrong.

DK      What’s Lee’s recourse here Sally:

SG      I agree with you Lee, and that’s an interesting question that you raise, and the law battles with that question, what’s the scope of duty of a doctor? If you see someone who is an IVF specialist, but in the course of treating you they come across the fact that you have cancer, what should they do? Do they leave it because it is outside their scope of duty, or do they refer you off for further treatment. The law is quite clear that the mere fact that you are treating someone for something else doesn’t mean that ignore any other symptoms or issues that that person may have. And you really have a duty to do more to act, to refer on, to advise because you are a doctor.

DK      But what if the first IVF doctor just simply missed it?

SG      Absolutely. So when the first IVF doctor misses it, in circumstances where it’s within their scope of duty and something they should be looking for in the course of treatment, so for example, if you go and see an orthopaedic surgeon about a foot problem, they’re not expected to treat you for a problem that’s un-related, for example a problem with your sinuses. They are two totally different areas of your body. But, when you’re being treated for, for example, fertility, you go to an IVF clinic, the whole area is related, the tests that are conducted relate to that area of the body, you really have to identify exactly what they were doing, what they saw, what the tests revealed and whether it was something that was easily identifiable by the IVF clinic, which by the sounds of it, it is.

DK      Hmm, sounds like another case we could pass the details on and you could perhaps chase up, Sally.

SG      Yes, absolutely, happy to help.

DK      Alright Lee, we’ll get your details as well. We’ll take a quick break, 131873, we’re speaking with Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman Lawyers on the issue of medical negligence, if you’ve got a question, give us a call now, 131873.

As we do this time every Tuesday, we’re talking legal matter with Turner Freeman Lawyers. Sally Gleeson is a lawyer for the firm, she’s on the line for us now, we’re talking medical negligence. Maryanne’s got a question, hi Maryanne. Can we get you to turn the radio down in the background Maryanne, we’ll put you on hold for a second. We’ll go to Wayne in the meantime, hi Wayne.

C4       Hello, how are you.

DK      Yea, good.

C4       Look I’ve got a question. My wife had a history of heart disease and her cardiologist recommended that she should have lap band surgery done.  So they agreed to do that. Before they wheeled her in for the operation, her heart was playing up. They went ahead with the operation and released her the next day, and said you’re right to go home. They were going to keep her in two days because of the history. They sent her home and four hours later she had a massive heart attack and died.

DK      Oh man.

C4       And that was it.  So about a year later, look, we paid a fairly substantial gap payment on that, I think you should refund that because the operation definitely wasn’t a success. They took about 6 or 8 weeks and came back and said our medical insurers have told us that if we refund any of that money then we’re at liability and that’s where it stands.

DK      What should Wayne do here Sally, this is a terrible tragedy.

SG      Yes, I’m really sorry to hear that Wayne. Obviously, there’s a complicated history about her heart disease and her cardiologist. She had the lap band surgery obviously to assist. When you say she had a heart attack and passed away, did she pass away soon after the lap band surgery? What was the proximity between the lap band surgery and when she passed away, and was it the heart attack that caused it?

C4       It was less than a day later. They sent her home. She had the operation at 8 o’clock on a Monday, they sent her home at 4 o’clock on the Tuesday and by 10 past 8 that evening she passed away.

SG      And the cardiologist, what does he or she say about the explanation for that?

C4       The cardiologist at the hospital? Never heard from them at all.

SG      OK, well that’s something that we should look into. We need to show that your wife passed away in circumstances that should have been avoided, and that her heart was not treated in the way that it should have been, rather she was given treatment that prolonged her heart disease and caused a heart attack in circumstances that could have been avoided. So, it depends very much on her history, why she was recommended to have lap band as a first course, whether her heart disease was properly treated and was stable, and obviously any potential case would be for you Wayne, rather than for your wife unfortunately. We someone passes away, their entitlements are extinguished. So we need to talk about you as well.

DK      Alright, we’ll get Wayne’s details I think Sally and pass them on. Again there might be some more to explore. I’m very sorry for your loss, Wayne. Maryanne we’ll try you again, hi?

C5       Hi.

DK      What happened to you.

C5       Oh hello. I had an operation last October and the first operation he missed a blood vessel and I had to get fully operated on again in my stomach, and then I had been, that next night, then the following six months up until now I have been very sick with infection after infection, and then he cut me, like, and I was just oozing for about three months, and eventually last month they realised that they had left something inside, and so a big packet of gauze was left inside and also a string of gauze was left inside.

DK      Oh gosh, Maryanne, that’s horrific. So what’s her option here Sally?

SG      Have they removed that and cleaned everything up Maryanne?

C5       Yes, I asked for another surgeon, because I simply couldn’t handle my other surgeon, but now they are saying they don’t use that gauze in the hospital, and what happened was my wound broke down you see after the second op, because I think it was just too weak, and then somehow they must have left this stuff in there after they kept packing it, because they kept changing it and packing it three times a day.

DK      Goodness me. So what can she do Sally?

SG      I mean, chronic infections are arguably one of the worst outcomes from surgery. Infection of infection are sometimes a recognised risk or complication of any surgery, when you open someone up, you’re introducing bacteria and potentially someone can have an infection, but the way  you deal with the infection is the key part, and it doesn’t sound like your infection was properly dealt with. It sounds like it went on for too long and obviously became chronic, and once you have a chronic infection that causes deterioration of your muscles, tissues, scarring, it’s very hard to repair and come back from that Maryanne, so we need to have a look at the span of time, and we’re happy to help there.

DK      Alright, again we’ll get your details Maryann and we’ll follow that up. Sally, lots of really good calls today, and thank you again for your help and advice.

SK      Thanks Deborah.

DK      Sally Gleeson there of Turner Freeman Lawyers. You can visit their website, turnerfreeman.com.au or give them a call on 134 363. We’ll give our $100 Westfield voucher to Lee who called in from The Ponds. Thank you for your calls. We’ll talk legal matters again this time next week.