In her From the Bench article titled ‘So, whose fault is it?’ (March 11), Graziella Gricchiola asserts that, unlike what happens abroad, there are fewer cases of medical malpractice instituted in Malta, “perhaps as a result of a generally good standard of medical practice, or else, an indication of a non-litigious culture”.
Having been an inpatient and an outpatient in a State and a private hospital on a number of occasions, I can safely say that a few rotten apples do exist among medical practitioners at all levels, like in any other profession, but that highly competent and humane ones by far predominate.
There are various reasons for a non-litigious culture inmedical matters.
There are aggrieved patients who have no financial means to make a formal complaint with the Medical Council or to institute court proceedings for medical negligence. Some patients feel the Medical Council’s mission is to protect the medical fraternity and not the patient’s best interests. Other patients are simply petrified to turn to the media for assistance. Others are unaware of their rights to lodge a complaint.
Some patients feel impotent to make a complaint due to either being illiterate or to a lack of an educational background.
Unfortunately, a number of patients can be in such a poor physical condition that they cannot sustain the lengthy bureaucracy, serving to worsen their desperate human predicament. The fact that, in her article, Cricchiola does not allude to medical records is baffling. A patient’s medical records are considered vital evidence by the courts in establishing whether the patient has a claim for negligence. The plaintiff’s legal counsel would find out whether a patient’s medical records are altered or amended, incomplete, illegible or a late entry.
Likewise, properly-recorded notes can protect medical practitioners, particularly surgeons, in case of alleged negligence due to operative complications.
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