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Sally Gleeson medical negligence podcast on 2GB

Q & A on 2GB discussing medical issues 12 April 2016

Tuesday, 12 April 2016 


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



CS       Yes, Turner Freeman presents Legal Matters and it’s a segment we have on each and every Tuesday. A whole array of topics. We try and rotate them through the month so that you can have your chance to ask a question and get free legal advice, which is a very very rare thing indeed; and through this period, I will award a $100 Westfield Voucher to a caller between now and 2:00 o’clock. The most relevant and one of the best questions of the segment; and don’t forget Turner Freeman Lawyers provide a range of specialised legal services including compensation and negligence law, asbestos litigation, family and employment law, wills and estate law, commercial litigation and also superannuation and disability claims. They’ve been doing it for 60 years. They know their stuff. Turner Freeman and once again a $100 Westfield Voucher up for grabs. Now in the news recently, we heard about, well probably one of the most scandalous things to ever happen in a New South Wales hospital where cancer patients at St Vincent’s in Sydney were given the incorrect dosage of chemotherapy and as a result of that a review discovered 23 people have lost their lives as a result and as part of the review, we discovered St Vincent’s itself tried to hide some of the information and not only that convinced those who were ruling on what had gone on that they made fixes to the chemotherapy problem and yet the doctor in charge had not been monitored as they promised he would be. So it’s a scandal in all fronts and I don’t think there’s enough compensation for the loss of a family member in those circumstances. How do you ever compensate someone for losing their wife or their husband? But let’s find out what you might be able to deal with when it comes to legal avenues.  If you’ve got a question on medical law, give us a call on 131 873 because from Turner Freeman Lawyers today I’ve got Sally Gleeson in the studio. Sally thank you so much for coming in.

SG      Thanks Chris.

CS       I just want to go back to the St Vincent’s thing and no doubt it’s an area that most of our listeners would not envisaged being involved with because you have so much faith and trust and hope on what your doctors do in a hospital but how can that go on where 23 patients lose their lives because of an incorrect dosage of chemotherapy and then to add insult to injury, the hospital says oh they’ll monitor the doctor and no monitoring takes place.

SG      That’s right, I mean it’s a double whammy in many ways because it’s bad enough that the error occurred, it’s even worse that the error, if it was an error, alleged negligence, however you want to start it, wasn’t escalated properly and more should have been taken at the appropriate time.  I think the reports originally said 2012, now they are saying 2005.

CS       That’s right, yeah.

SG      And, I mean that just raises alarm bells in my mind. It tells me there were red flags, there’s no doubt there was some knowledge by someone along the lines and it doesn’t appear to me that those red flags were escalated properly through the management and steps taken to ensure that it didn’t continue.

CS       Well if the management is not doing what they promised they would do to the doctor concerned as a result of these deaths, you would have to ask questions about their role knowing what they knew prior. Look, how do you turn up to a court room and say my client deserves this amount of compensation for losing their husband or wife. How do you put a figure on that?

SG      The tragedy again and I use the word tragedy because it is, is that once a valued family member passes away, their rights to compensation are extinguished upon their death. So that person’s rights to compensation are gone by virtue of that person’s passing. So the only compensation allowable under the legislation is for the family members and it doesn’t compensate them enough. I mean as you said before, no amount of money can compensate, but the laws are even more limited in those instances particularly when someone passes away by virtue of negligence. 

CS       So how limited? What sort of areas are we talking about? What sums?

SG      its pain and suffering for that person’s psychiatric reaction to that loved ones death, it’s called nervous shock. It’s pain and suffering for the psychological effect that it’s had on that person’s life and in circumstances where a family member is dependent, young children, a wife, a husband, their partner, mother, father passed away and they were bringing in money and providing benefits by way of care. It’s called a “Compensation to Relatives” case. So the compensation their relative can be given by virtue of someone’s death for the loss of the financial benefit that that person brought to the household. 

CS       But, so what could that be? That could be what? A half a million dollars to……. 

SG      Several million dollars. If we’re talking about a mother or a father who die and they have young kids, a lot of money.

CS       So if that person is not bringing in an income…..

SG      It limits the family’s rights to compensation, so for example the worst people affected which is another tragedy, which I keep using the word tragedy, are elderly people. So for example an elderly couple, the wife or the husband passes away, they are in their 60s or 70s, they are not working any more, they share the work around the house and one of their loved one dies by virtue of negligence, well then that spouse – their entitlements to compensation are really only for their pain and suffering by virtue of the effect that it’s had on them psychologically and it’s unfair and unjust in many ways.

CS       It is. Also in the news recently, the number of complaints about health professionals in Canberra have doubled in the past 2 years. Are we whinging more or complaining more? Or is the standard of care dropping? What do you think is the case?

SG      I think the standard of care’s been the same and I think efforts have been put into place over many many decades to improve the standard of care, I just think we are under resourced and I think more people are coming forward and I think hospitals, particularly public health hospitals have now put into place systems where adverse events have to be reported, have to be brought to the attention of the CEO and have to be brought to the attention of the regulatory authorities.

CS       Where as in the past we might be ????? to go through the process.

SG      Yes that’s true.

CS       The process can be quite a tough thing to go through surely?

SG      Very tough.

CS       Yeah.

SG      But it’s tougher when families don’t feel like they are given the right information. I think that most of the people that come to me they just want answers. They want open and honest disclosure. They want to be communicated with, they want to be told what happened. I think if people were told at the very beginning, listen, this is what’s happened, I’m sorry about it, of course that’s not legally admissible, and what can we do to make it better for you, half the people wouldn’t come and see lawyers.

CG      Yeah.  It you’ve got a problem with a hospital or an individual doctor or a specialist or a surgeon you’ve had contact with and you’d just like some clarification on the circumstances, Sally is here to take your calls right now. Free advice. 131 873. You’ve got to get in now though. 131 873. There’s a story in the Daily Mail today about a 13 year old girl, Tamara Mills in England who died because doctors weren’t taking her asthma seriously. Look I would understand how angry people would be if someone in their family died because of action the doctors took. That’s one thing. You can actually……. you get closer to the cause of the death if someone has done something but by just not do nothing…..

SG      In action.

CS       There’s got to be a tougher thing to prove responsibility for.

SG      It’s tougher but not as tough as you think Chris.

CS       Right….

SG      You know someone comes in with a problem, you have to follow protocol, you have to diagnose, you have to make clinical…. you have to eliminate what it can or can’t be, and there are certain clinical criteria in which that problem may fall and doctors by virtue of their job due diligence have to ensure that they’ve done all the tests. And…..

CS       But if you’re turning up to a GP saying I’ve come to you because I know my asthma is bad and I’ve got my puffers etc, but I’ve come to you for more because I think it is chronic…. nothing’s done…. you’re sent away….. you die…. the families got to ask questions about what that loved one was told when they went to the GP.

SG      Yes; and asthma’s one of those silent killers.  It’s very very easy to treat but very difficult to treat once it’s been untreated for a long time; so asthma, particularly with children you’ve got to get on to it, you’ve got to be onto it, the family have to be educated about the asthma and every day of that child’s life, particularly if they have severe asthma, they have to be medicated properly and if someone for example, there is an asthma induced by viruses or illness and they make asthma very difficult to treat but GP’s know about it and they should know about it.

CS       Okay, we’ve got a stack of callers to get to, obviously lots of questions about medical law, free advice coming up for you and a $100 Voucher from Westfield and Turner Freeman to give away as well. We’ll take a very quick break…..

CS       Proud Furniture, our proud sponsors. That’s what they are. They’ve been with us for 14 years on this program which is great. Good on you Rosco…. 14 minutes to 2 o’clock. We’re talking legal matters. In this case medical law and Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman Lawyers is ready to take your call. Bonnie from Toowoomba  – go right ahead, Sally is listening.

Caller No: 1    Bonnie

Bonnie     Oh how are you? I just had a question that’s happened almost 9 years ago, my mother was being taken to hospital in the early hours of the morning and she was unwell is all I got. So then I travelled down to be with her which is a couple of hours – by the time I got there – my mother was very very unwell and with a little bit of nursing background I could tell that mum was dying and however I was told she was being discharged and were waiting for the ?????. I said to the doctor at the time that I thought that my mother was going nowhere and there were some big issues here. Long story and it lasted about 3 hours from start to finish but I sort to have to had to yell at them to do an x-ray and I could tell mum had too much, I felt – too much????? x-ray she had complicated lungs with pneumonia on board. With that my mother started to struggle to breathe and there was a nurse in the ward in the ED Department and then decided that mum was quite sick, but she was too sick to transfer and there was a nurse in the ward that was racing around trying to find a piece of – we need an ????? which didn’t …. she didn’t know where it was – she was actually there for the day….Now at the end of the day, my mother passed away in my hands, my arms looking at me and wanting help. I had to sort of initialise will the care which was all too late and she had…. they had her on a discharge bed to go home because they said her sugar was too high and that was the problem and she did have high sugar. Now I want to take this further but of course that was 9 years ago, but my dear old dad, who was expecting this lady to come home – was outside waiting for me to come out and say what was happening but she had already passed. I thought it was you know – I knew they had stuffed up really in the short amount of words and it was devastating to our family however, ……

CS       So Bonnie, let’s just short circuit because I’ve got 20 other callers who want to get in.

Bonnie                        Yep.

CS       You want to know whether 9 years has passed whether it’s too late?

Bonnie                        Is it too late and is it too much on my dad who is now 79.

SG      Well Bonnie, it may be too late. Did you see anyone else before ringing today? Have you consulted any other lawyers?

Bonnie                        No – because dad was frightened that it involved all this other stuff and …..

CS       Okay – is it too late Sally.

SG      It may be – depends on the facts, it depends on your knowledge and it doesn’t really matter if it’s too late, we need to understand or analyse whether there is a case, so…..

CS       Okay, what we’ll do – put Bonnie through to Gabriella and we’ll try and give the right numbers of Turner Freeman to have a longer conversation because there are key issues that need to be discussed. Anne, go right ahead.

Caller 2 – Anne

Anne               Oh hi Sally and Chris.

CS       Hi.

SG      Hi.

Anne               Look my situation is I was booked in for a routine colonoscopy, they found a tumour or a lump actually – it wasn’t even a tumour – it was benign – but – so they removed that but in the process they perforated my bowel – so…. they got the whole family in there because they thought I was going to die; and since then I’ve had to have – I’ve been in hospital since March last year to December last year when you know complications…..

SG      And this happened about a year ago or so Anne?

Anne               A year ago

SG      A year – okay – and how are you now?

Anne               Oh well I lost 20 kilos so……

SG      Yeah.

CS       Did you have to stop work?

Anne               No.  I had to give up work and I was working in the medical industry….

SG      Yes – well I’m sorry to hear what happened to you but I’d definitely be happy to talk to you.  Unfortunately with routine colonoscopy is one of the recognised risks and complications are often depending on the way it was negotiated is a perforated bowel but I’d have to very much look at the actual hospital reports and I’d be able to discuss that with you.

CS       Now that’s interesting though. Just an ordinary colonoscopy can lead to something like that. Anne stay right there and we’ll get you in contact with Sally. Margaret go right ahead.

Caller 3 – Margaret

Margaret        Oh hello yes. Look I had glaucoma and my doctor wanted to do laser on that eye.  It was perfect after he’d taken the cataract out  but then he wanted to do laser – he kept pestering me for it – he said it was wonderful – never said it might not work – well it didn’t work – he did all the laser treatment in the one effort and apparently you’ve got to do it in two lots and of course gradually from day 1 my eye deteriorated and it still is and because I had a cataract in the other eye they wouldn’t do it – they thought I might not be able to see at all and of course for that one I had to go somewhere else to have that one done and two or three doctors refused me to do it but finally one did and now that’s why I’m stuck with an ongoing thing – the sight in the right eye is going and the one apparently in the left – it deteriorated because they left the cataract too long. 

SG      Right okay. Well that’s a problem in terms of the glaucoma. There is separate treatment for the glaucoma. I haven’t really heard of laser being used and it’s an issue that you and I should talk about definitely.

CS       Alright Margaret stay right there. Skye. Go for your life.

Caller 4 – Skye 

Skye                Yeah – Hi there – I’m 41 years of age, just go diagnosed on Friday with invasive ductal carcinoma in one of my breasts. I’ve been getting my breasts checked for years and years and years. Really worried about that breast in particular, that lump in particular and kept getting palmed off saying it’s just because I’ve never had children that I’ve got lumpy breasts – anyway mid-last week I dropped into a GP, luckily she’d been dealing with breast care for 12 years up in Brisbane and she basically made an appointment straight away for mammogram, ultrasound and a core biopsy because she was that worried about it. Went to have all the scans – the woman at the mammogram said make sure you have the biopsy. I’m not good with needles, like I crap myself, so I got given by….. the ultrasound woman looked at my breasts as well and said I’ve got the same thing – oh – yours has got some calcified bits on it which mine doesn’t but .you…. she ran off to speak to a doctor and apparently between her and the doctor they said no – it’s nothing to worry about – don’t worry about the biopsy. I got home completely elated thinking you know I don’t have cancer – I’m not dying. My GP rang me absolutely went off at me and sent me straight back in for the biopsy – Friday I go into the GP to get the results and I’ve got invasive cancer… So you know I’m …. you know I’m young and I know lots of other people who’ve had cancer but people like that shouldn’t comment – if they’re told to do a job – they should damn well do it. My whole family are completely rocked and because of her lie the whole weekend I had to spend thinking that I was riddled with cancer. Every single ache in my body I thought was bone cancer, kidney, liver, I thought I had it everywhere – even though I’ve seen the surgeon on Friday afternoon and he said based on my scans it was based just in my breast – he didn’t think it had spread – blah blah blah – but because I had been lied to and mislead by that radiologist, I spent the whole weekend basically absolutely crapping myself, upset my entire family more so than they should have been – and the scans luckily to me the cancer hasn’t spread out of my breast…..

CS       That’s good.

Skye    But its just wrong. It’s just wrong – they shouldn’t be able to do that – if they’re not professionals in their field or if they don’t think that…… you know – you should just not …….. go with your gut and not listen to these so-called professionals.

CS       That is really good advice and can I say Skye, is it something that you want to take further?

Skye    Um, I’m not sure at this point.

CS       You’ve got another battle to contend with right now.

Skye    Yeah – it’s all very new to me.

CS       I bet.

Skye    So I’m just a shaking, shivering mess the whole time. I find out the course of action this afternoon but that is a mastectomy, possibly a double mastectomy – you know it’s ….. Yeah – I’ve lost a friend who’s finished breast cancer treatment in March last year – she finished the treatment and something went wrong – about 1 month after she had finished – so you know it’s just not good but I’ll certainly……..

CS       Well Skye – you’ve got other big things to contend with now. I do want to give you that $100 Westfield Voucher as a consolation to all of this but …. that’s an aside.

Skye    Can we donate it to a cancer cause……?

CS       Yes let’s do that – that’s fantastic….. That’s an even better idea….

Skye    And just donate it to a cancer cause. I don’t need the money.. yeah……

CS       We’ll get it to the Cancer Council – We’re having a breakfast at 2GB – a Cancer Council breakfast – that will be our first donation. But very quickly 20 seconds from Sally if I may. 

SG      Skye – I mean I agree totally with what you said – unless you’re qualified to give a diagnosis, give a prognosis, talk about a problem – then you shouldn’t and I’m sorry about that and if…. I hope that you recover and I wish you all the best. If you ever need to discuss with me whether the problems affected you long term, please feel free to call me.

CS       Yeah – I appreciate that. Sally Gleeson thank you very much for coming in this afternoon.

SG      Thank you.  Thanks Chris.

CS       And all the best to you Skye in the fight ahead. That’s courtesy of Turner Freeman – 4 to 2.


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