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Sally Gleeson providing Q & A about medical negligence

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Steve Price Afternoon Show discussing medical negligence on 15 October 2019

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

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SP – Steve Price / SG – Sally Gleeson /C1,2,3, etc – Callers

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SP          One of our most important segments of the week of course involves Turner Freeman Lawyers. All sorts of legal issues we have discussed over the last 6 or so weeks. We are going to talk today about the medical system and it is something where there could be a problem. We place our faith and trust in the doctors and the medical system when we are sick or injured but everybody is human, everybody can make a mistake so what happens if you do find yourself in the middle of an issue like this? We would love to hear from you. We have a $100 Westfield voucher to give away to the caller who asks us the best question today in our legal matters segment. 131873. Have you been involved in a medical malpractice case or are you in the middle of trying to work out where to go because you have had a problem with your medical treatment. Sally Gleeson is a partner at Turner Freeman Lawyers. She will be able to help you with any of that. 131873. $100 Westfield voucher to our best caller. Sally good afternoon, great to see you again.

SG         Hi Steve.

SP          We will go to a hospital or to a doctor or to a GP clinic or even to a dentist and we expect it all to work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t.

SG         It doesn’t and I always say medical misadventure doesn’t always equal medical error or medical negligence and I have been coming on the show for a long time now and repeating the same thing that sometimes bad things happens and they are unfortunate and people suffer significant injuries and their lives turn upside down but it doesn’t always mean that they have a case that they can litigate or can be compensated for and that’s unfortunate but that highlights a difficulty with the system, the law is clear cut, sometimes it isn’t as clear cut as it should be but you know there was a recent case about a man who sustained serious neurological damage, he was an inpatient at Royal North Shore hospital and his family launched a legal action, he suffered a debilitating stroke at the hospital, he went in, he had surgery, after the surgery he complained of worsening headaches and he had weakness and he had symptoms that suggested something was amiss and he was checked by the nurses and he was checked by the doctors and they checked him regularly but nothing was reported and nothing was done about it and his symptoms deteriorated and he became really unwell and eventually a test detected an arterial blockage and he suffered a really serious stroke and his family brought an action against the hospital saying, listen this should have been detected earlier, had it been detected earlier he would have had treatment, the treatment would have alleviated or reversed the stroke and the debilitating condition and ultimately the case did settle but the judge made some comments during the approval of the settlement which happens when someone suffers a catastrophic injury, the court has to approve the settlement and the judge made comments to highlight the difficulty that the family faced in the case even though on the face of it it seems quite clear how could this family not sue, how could this man not receive compensation but the Judge made it really really clear that in this case anything could have happened, her decision could have gone either way because who knows when that earlier treatment should have been instituted and implemented and who knows what difference and outcome that would have created and so medical negligence as I always say, serious law but you know law that when a case is proper and correct people can be entitled to significant compensation.

SP          Very difficult to prove a case like this I guess.

SG         Absolutely.

SP          How do you prove how quickly they should have picked up the symptoms that lead ultimately to the stroke, I mean you’ve obviously got to then employ medical experts to go argue your side of the case.

SG         That’s correct. We look at the story, we talk to the family, we piece together the story from beginning to end. We look at the evidence, the primary evidence, the sourced evidence which is the clinical records and then we divert to medical experts and these experts range, they are radiologists, they are neuro radiologists, they are neurosurgeons, they are neurologists, they are all types of experts and I am talking about experts that might be helpful in this type of case and sometimes the experts don’t agree, they don’t provide an opinion, they between themselves have conflicting opinions when ultimately you have to look at the evidence on balance and weigh it up and make a decision with the experience and the benefit of the knowledge of the system and hindsight about what’s the best way forward and advise the family in a conservative and proper way.

SP          If you’ve been through this yourself 131873. Not particularly a specific case but through a medical case that you’ve had to fight or you’re in the middle of trying to set one up. One of the things that, well doesn’t surprise me it’s the legal system, the Supreme Court ordered legal costs in this man’s regard and so his $200,000 legal costs were paid but there was a confidentiality clause around the judgment which means you can’t actually work out what the experts have said unless you were sitting there in court. What the experts have said was the reason why it happened? Is that a good thing to have happen?

SG         Well confidentiality.

SP          Or is it a privacy issue?

SG         Well confidentiality clauses and sometimes no disparagement clauses mean you can’t criticise whoever you say made the error protects the both parties, protects the privacy of the person because not everyone wants everyone knowing exactly what they obtained by way of compensation and it also protects the privacy and the confidentiality and the ability of the medical practitioner to get on with their practice and their career. So it works both ways, knowing about what the expert said, you won’t know from looking at a document that has been filed in Court, you really have to be a part of the case, you have to talk to the experts, you have to look at the medical reports and the medical evidence that has been gathered in the case but there is a reason for it and I think sometimes that is necessary and all settlements carry with them that sort of confidentiality.

SP          Medical negligence 131873 we have a $100 Westfield voucher to give away to our best caller of the day. Milton is in Woolloongabba.

C1          Yeah I’m alright. Are you a lawyer?

SP          Yep, there is a lawyer sitting right next to me.

C1          So you are not a lawyer but there is a lawyer sitting next to you. So we are having a three way conversation? He can hear this can he?

SP          Sally it is. Yep she is here.

C1          Hi Sally.

SG         Hi how are you?

C1          Yeah Im very good thanks.

SP          Yeh go ahead Milton please.

C1          Well basically I just believe a specialist neurologist that I was seeing did me wrong. 

SG         Ok can you explain what happened Milton if you can.

C1          I started seeing him in 2014, it’s regarding elevated levels in my prostate. There was something going on, I walked away from that very first appointment with him telling me that it would just, they used an expression wait and watch and then approximately in 2015 the same thing wait and watch, 2016 wait and watch and in 2017 I got a call out of the blue on the Friday before long weekend saying that he has a spot available on the Tuesday after the long weekend, Tuesday for a biopsy. It hit me right out of the blue because they have a space available someone obviously wasn’t coming in and I had to make, that call was around about 4pm, they were leaving their office at 5pm for the long weekend so I had to make a decision in a hurry, like ten mins I’ll call back, cause it hit me suddenly so I rang back and accepted of course.

SP          Just shorten up the story, what happened when you had the biopsy done?

C1          Well the biopsy turned out to be positive so from there.

SP          So your argument there is that the wait and watch that you were given previously was incorrect information?

C1          Very incorrect, he did nothing, this guy did not even give me another way of checking your prostate through a DRE, I don’t know if you know what expression means, digital rectal examination.

SP          Ok so let’s see what Sally has to say about that.

SG         So Milton we need to prove in your case that over the years from 2014 through to 2016 to the time that you were diagnosed with something suspicious which warranted the biopsy that you had that there was more there and it should have been acted on. I understand that you now say with a benefit of knowing what you are now going through that they did you wrong, what we have to do is look at your records, the records of the urologist, the records of the testing from the pathology places and also talk to you about your symptoms over the years and form a picture of what more should have happened in terms of the urologist doing more. Of course the whole point of having annual PSA’s which is usually what happens, is that you don’t adopt a wait and see approach unless there was nothing there, the wait and see approach is designed in circumstances where there is nothing there and there is nothing suspicious or nothing that cause for further intervention but in your case if there was something there, a red flag that should have warranted further action, that is something that we have to piece together for the records. So it is something that I am happy to look at for you and piece together what the clinical records or the clinical picture suggested in your case to see whether more should have been done by your urologist.

SP          Hang on there Milton we will get you in touch with Sally. We are going to take a quick break, plenty of calls, back after this. Talking medical negligence this afternoon with Sally Gleeson taking your calls. Best caller of the day, Westfield voucher. Paul is on line in Thornleigh. Go ahead Paul.

C2          Good afternoon Steve, great show. I just thought I would share this, I don’t know if I have a case or not but in approximately 2016 I had a knee issue and I went along and had a referral to a knee surgeon and he said oh yes I can see that is a problem, we had the normal scans and so forth. He said how is your other knee, it’s not so bad, I get the odd twinge but it doesn’t inhibit me and he said well look, go and get an x-ray downstairs and if that knee needs doing you might as well get them done at the same time, same recovery and so forth. I went and had the scan done and he said yeh you probably gonna need to have that done eventually so you might as well get it done now cause it is same recovery time as I said. So I said ok and went ahead and he said look you don’t, on one side of the knee is fine it’s just got a part of your knee has a got a problem so I am recommending we do two half knees for you. I said I’ve never heard of half so he said it’s done all the time so I had the surgery, I lost a lot of weight in preparation, gym work and get the muscles strong to support the knee. Went and had the surgery and had both half knees done and had a fantastic recovery and was way ahead of the curve all the time in recovery and carried on with my physio for a month or two months afterwards and so on, about 4 months after the operation one knee failed, my right knee completely failed and the piece of material, the soft piece of material between the two titanium parts of the joint, it just slipped out altogether and I was in terrible trouble so I got in touch with him. He said I’m really sorry I don’t know how that’s happened he said that is amazing, I couldn’t walk at that point so he said Ill fix it for you and don’t worry about it’s under warranty so I said that’s great so he put me into hospital and I went through it again and what Id didn’t realise a the time was is that when they hack out the old one that they have either bolted in, or welded or whatever they did. My god I had this second full knee that I got was so painful, the recovery took so long it was awful, notwithstanding put up with it and got on with it it’s just a fact of life.

SP          Well Sally is making furious notes here. What do you think Sally?

SG         Hi Paul. So initially you had two partial knee replacements it sounds like?

C2          collapsed as well so I’ve had to have that done as well so I’ve had 4 knee replacements in about 7 months.

SP          So both have failed, both are half knees?

SG         So normally doctors will tell you even the most liberal of doctors that you don’t treat something that doesn’t give you any problems. You mentioned earlier, now I’m no doctor, but you mentioned earlier that one of your knees was a problematic knee, the other wasn’t so bad but you had work done on both of them and then you’ve had failed knee partial replacements and now you’ve had a total one, when of course when you go in several times your recovery is longer and you end up struggling with the outcome. I know you don’t know whether there is anything in there and I know that you haven’t sought legal advice about it but you really have to look at the source of the problem and find out whether the original surgery that was done on you was necessary and appropriate. If it wasn’t necessary and if it wasn’t appropriate and you didn’t need the treatment you had, regardless of the outcome following that then there might be something that I can help you with. But it sounds to me like the original surgery we have to look into that and investigate it as to whether it was necessary.

C2          Well necessary or not they both failed and notwithstanding it was done under warranty, here I am 3 years later with still very painful knees and great difficulty climbing stairs.

SP          You can’t go and play golf mate?

C2          They told me there would be no trouble you’ll be able to ski or anything afterwards. I can’t walk upstairs.

SP          That doesn’t sound right, you hang on there, we will put you in touch with Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman. It just doesn’t sound right.

SG         Doesn’t sound right that is why we have got to look at what happened at the very beginning.

SP          Very rare these days for one of those knee reconstructions to fail, they are normally pretty fail proof aren’t they?

SG         They have been done for so long they are normally done well.

SP          Let’s talk to Brian in Jimboomba. Hello Brian.

C3          Yeah hello Steve how are you?

SP          Alright Brian. Thanks.

C3          I’m pleased to get through. I had open heart surgery here in Brisbane, it is getting up towards 5 years ago and I’ve never smoked in my life, they fixed me heart up but during the operation you have two nerves go from your carotid valve down to your diaphragm and your right lung and left lung and they cut that I came out with only one lung and a half a diaphragm and I am having trouble breathing and all the little jobs I used to do myself half the time I have to pay someone to do them and another thing I am still sore – I am numb in one little place and I’m still sore in other place on the right hand side.

SP          Complex issue but what do you think Sally?

SG         Hi Brian, it’s Sally. Brian have you spoken to your surgeon about it and asked your surgeon him or her what happened?

C3          Yeah well they, they did a ten hour operation on me, I came out and I was nearly blind and I’ve never had my mind properly back since but my eyesight come good and they said we can’t do anymore for you that’s it.

SG         So I was going to say, I’m sorry to hear about what’s happened to you, 10 hours on the heart area.

C3          Not on the heart, the 10 hours was on my lung to try and fix it, they hardened up the diaphragm so I could breathe.

SG         How is your breathing now?

C3          I have trouble mate, I have to be where I can get plenty of air.

SG         What happened during the surgery was a misadventure, so something happened during the surgery where they nicked something and you’ve suffered.

C3          Yeah they nicked the main nerve.

SP          It doesn’t sound right Sally does it?

SG         It doesn’t sound right but it doesn’t mean there is anything in it that could lead to a legal case. We have to have a look at the operation report Brian, I have got to look at the records and I have got to look at the operation report and I have to see what happened. Sometimes that area is really really difficult to navigate and even with the exercise of the best possible care and proper treatment, sometimes it can’t be helped. I’m not saying that happened in your case, I’m not saying that in your case it couldn’t have been avoided but sometimes it can’t be avoided regardless of the surgeon and the quality of the surgeon and the way in which the surgeon operates so I am very happy to help you an talk about it but I have to look at the records and I am happy to investigate it and get back to you.

SP          Hang on there Brian in Jimboomba we will get your contact details. Michelle is in Rydalmere. Hello Michelle.

C4          Oh hi.  I don’t know if you can help me but this has been going on since Thursday. My grandson walked into Concord Hospital on Thursday and he was delirious, they rang me and said he didn’t know who he was or where he was so they admitted him and then he left so he came home here with the band on his wrist so I knew that the hospital then rang me and asked me to hold him here. A nice policeman came and waited an hour until the ambulance came. The next day they said he was alright to come home. That night he had a car accident and when he was in the police station they said he didn’t know where he was at the time either so they took him straight to Westmead hospital and then they let him go. Last night you’re not going to believe it, they rang me last night and said he was in a car accident, we have taken him to Westmead hospital they are admitting him but today he is going for a brain scan, he could still be released. I thought gee how much have you got to be knocking on the door to say that you need help.

SP          Well that sounds like a police matter rather than a medical matter but let’s hope he makes a full recovery and that they do do that brain scan and they sort it out because that does sound to me like something to do with the police. Always a pleasure to see you Sally Gleeson. We are going to give our $100 Westfield voucher to our mate who has had two knee reconstructions, two collapses and two more.  Wouldn’t want to be going and getting a knee reconstruction at the moment I wouldn’t have thought. Thank you very much for coming, Ill see you next week.

SG         Thanks

SP       That’s Paul from Thornleigh, that’s the Westfield voucher. See you after this.