Medical Malpractice for Healthcare Professionals
Good news for healthcare practitioners and healthcare facility operators is found in the recent Supreme Court of Appeal judgment MEC for Health, Western Cape V Qole.
The Court was firm in its finding that the mere fact that harm has been occasioned to a patient is not on its own proof that the medical staff had caused it or that they had done so negligently.
The Court referred with approval to an earlier judgment of Goliath V MEC for Health, Eastern Cape 2014 SCA warning against reverse reasoning of this kind:
“…to hold a doctor negligent simply because something had gone wrong, would be to impermissibly reason backwards from effect to cause.”
“. . . we should be doing a disservice to the community at large if we were to impose liability on hospitals and doctors for everything that happens to go wrong. Doctors would be led to think more of their own safety than of the good of their patients. Initiative would be stifled, and confidence shaken. A proper sense of proportion requires us to have regard to the conditions in which hospitals and doctors have to work. We must insist on due care for the patient at every point, but we must not condemn as negligence that which is only a misadventure” Roe v Ministry of Health & others.
“it is not open to a court simply to express a preference for the one rather than the other and on that basis to hold the medical practitioner to have been negligent. Provided a medical practitioner acts in accordance with a reasonable and respectable body of medical opinions his conduct cannot be condemned as negligent merely because another equally reasonable and respectable body of medical opinion would have acted differently” Mediclinic v Vermeulen
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