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Organisation Calls for more Openness in Hospital Negligence Claims

The Medical Injuries Alliance has repeated its call for “Duty of Candour” legislation so that there is more openness in hospital negligence claims.

The Medical Injuries Alliance is an organisation that works with patients injured by medical mistakes to get answers about how the injuries occurred. Among the organisation´s objectives is the promotion of studies that help to understand the why medical mistakes occur, so that safety improvements in Irish hospitals can be made.

In order to meet their objectives, the Alliance has repeatedly called for politicians to introduce “Duty of Candour” legislation – legislation that would promote openness in hospital negligence claims by forcing healthcare professionals and Irish hospitals to admit when medical mistakes have been made, to explain why they happened, and to issue an apology immediately.

The Alliance has already issued a statement on its website that “the duty of candour in hospitals and doctors should be placed on a statutory footing, entitling injured patients to an accurate account of how they came to suffer medical injury in Irish hospitals”, and, to repeat its call for more openness in hospital negligence claims, the message has now been taken to the press.

Last week an article appeared in the Irish Times commenting on a cerebral palsy claim that took nine years to resolve due to a lack of openness in hospital negligence claims and alleged “stonewalling” by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The article concluded by saying that duty of candour laws were introduced in the UK last year, and that similar legislation is clearly needed in Ireland.

In response to that article, a letter from the Secretary of the Medical Injuries Alliance – Joice McCarthy – was published. In the letter, Ms McCarthy agreed with the comments within the article and made her own observations that many victims of hospital negligence are forced to take legal action to get the answers to the questions that healthcare professionals and hospitals are unwilling to give.

Ms McCarthy commented that patients who have been through the legal process describe it as a stressful and protracted experience, and she alluded to the recent “shabby episode” in which there was a disagreement between the HSE and the State Claims Agency about who was responsible for delays in settling a six-year hospital negligence claim. Ms McCarthy concluded her letter:

“Instead of blaming any particular State organisation, or indeed having different State organisations blame one another for the current difficulties, it is high time politicians simply acted to introduce a legal duty of candour in order to fix what seems to be a glaringly obvious problem”.

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