Medical negligence – ‘deny and delay’
Sir, – In his recent article, Dr David Clinch makes a number of points that should not go unchallenged (“A health service that looks after its staff will serve its patients better”, Opinion & Analysis, August 21st). Dr Clinch claims that “candour and apologising for medical shortcomings are professional obligations ”, yet the reality is that this practice by either the HSE or medical professionals is effectively non-existent. An unspoken policy of “deny and delay” is what victims of medical negligence invariably face when mistakes occur in Irish hospitals.
Dr Clinch also claims that “regrettably in some countries a practice has arisen of hospitals issuing apologies, before the cited doctors are involved”, yet fails to make clear that this assuredly is not the case in Ireland.
Indeed, in regard to poorly performing doctors, the president of the Irish Medical Council has previously flagged the HSE’s very low reporting rate compared to the UK and other countries. While Dr Clinch may feel that candour is a professional obligation, when it fails to occur, invariably no action is ever taken by the HSE.
I wholeheartedly agree with Dr Clinch in his statement that “Mature handling of complaints and incidents is essential”.
However, pretending no error has occurred, as is currently the policy in Ireland, cannot be described as mature.
While Dr Clinch is perfectly entitled to voice his views, it should be acknowledged that the medical profession remains a powerful lobby group within the Irish health service. In contrast, patients and even more so victims of medical negligence have very little influence.
The harsh reality is that unlike Dr Clinch and his medical colleagues, victims of medical negligence have no representative body to advocate on their behalf, nor are they given articles in national newspapers. – Yours, etc,