To bring a successful medical negligence case against a healthcare professional a patient must prove that the harm or injury they suffered was caused by a failure on the part of the healthcare professional to provide the appropriate standard of care.
There are certain criteria applied to establish whether there has been such failure. At its most basic the healthcare professional must give the standard of care expected of a competent member of the relevant profession whether that is a nurse, consultant, midwife, dentist and so on. The legal test which must be established in Irish law is the 1989 case of Dunne v. National Maternity Hospital. In that case, the Irish Supreme Court set out what are known as the ‘Dunne Principles’ and it is these that are applied when trying to decide whether there has been medical negligence. The ‘Dunne Principles’ may be summarised as follows:-
If the doctor (or any healthcare professional) has departed away from a ‘general and approved practice’ that will not establish medical negligence unless it is also proved that no other doctor of a similar status and skill would have done the same thing.
If a doctor tries to defend his or her conduct by saying that he or she followed a practice which is general and approved by the medical profession he or she cannot escape blame if the patient establishes that such practice has inherent defects which should have been spotted if acting with ordinary care. Therefore, it is not enough for a doctor to simply say that their own way of doing things was one adopted by all the other doctors of like speciality by saying ‘lots of others do the same thing’ and this should not be a defence to a medical negligence claim if what is being done is unjustified.
To defeat a medical negligence claim it must be proved by the hospital that they did not depart from what another medical doctor of equal status and skill would have done if acting with ordinary care.
For your claim to succeed your must show on the ‘balance of probabilities’ (more likely that not) that:
- You were owed a duty of care by the healthcare professional – this is a given
- There was a breach of that duty of care – see above
- You have suffered injury either mental or physical (or both) – this is proved with medical expert reports
- That the breach of duty of care caused or in some way contributed to your injury – this can be most controversial in medical negligence litigation
As this can be a challenging area of law you should seek professional legal advice from a specialist medical negligence solicitor. Please also be aware of strict and often unforgiving time limits by which to take a case.
Please feel free to reach out to us and we will be pleased to discuss your case and offer no obligation advice. To contact one of our medical negligence claims solicitors please call 0818 888 555 or WhatsApp/call 087 398 7386 or complete our online enquiry form