Outside New Zealand, there has been a lot of talk about the rising cost of clinical negligence: the increasing number of claims, and the increasing levels of awards. We also hear the rhetoric that the fear of litigation drives doctors to practise defensive medicine.
Although the circumstances are different for members in New Zealand, you may be interested to know that MPS members across the world tell me that it is the dread of a complaint to the Medical Council, and the risk of a public hearing, trial by media and reputational damage that concern them much more than a claim. This may be down to the fact that members’ indemnity arrangements will step in to meet the financial costs of a claim, making it a less personally traumatic experience than the sanctions that might be faced at, for example, the hands of an employer, regulator or even the police.
Although the cost of claims is far and away the largest call on members’ funds worldwide at MPS, they only represent about 20% of the cases we handle worldwide – the rest are complaints, inquests, disciplinary cases and other medicolegal challenges to a member’s professional practice.
Although the cost of claims is far and away the largest call on members’ funds at MPS, they only represent about 20% of the cases we handle worldwide
It is also possible for a single incident to take a member through a series of procedures. For example, a perinatal death might give rise to complaint, inquiry, inquest, disciplinary and regulatory investigations. The scope for multiple jeopardy and the range of mechanisms for holding a doctor to account seems to widen with every reform of healthcare around the world.
Finally, I hope you enjoy reading the case reports – in this edition we share learning from both settled claims from around the world and also some very successful defences.
As always, I welcome your feedback – whether in response to content within Casebook or to share your own experiences.
Dr Stephanie Bown – Editor-in-chief
MPS Director of Policy and Communications