Everything You Need to Know About Causation in Medical Negligence Cases
As you can imagine, making a legal claim against someone in the medical sector can be a lengthy process, and there is plenty of misleading information online that could potentially make the whole topic confusing.
There are two main points that you should think about before going forward and making a medical negligence. These are:
- Whether you didn’t receive an appropriate standard of care while you were seeking treatment or medical help
- From this, whether you suffered with an illness or injury that could’ve been avoided should you have had the right care – this is what ‘causation’ means in medical negligence cases.
How Should You Prove Causation in a Case?
Majority of the time, proving that someone in the health sector gave you an injury or illness through misdiagnosis or lack of care can be quite difficult.
With a lot of procedures and treatments, there could be a lot of different complications and side effects that could potentially affect the outcome, which is why sometimes, it may be hard to say who is responsible for what.
In order to establish causation, you must be able to show through a ‘balance of probabilities’ that the breach was the reason for the injury.
A famous case is the Barnett case. Mr Barnett visited his local hospital complaining that he couldn’t stop being sick and that he had awful stomach pains. He was soon seen by a nurse who rang for the on-duty doctor, although the doctor told him to go home and to contact his GP first thing in the morning, assuming it could be food poisoning or a stomach bug.
However, Mr Barnett was unable to call for a GP in the morning as he in fact died 5 hours later from arsenic poisoning.
Although the on-duty doctor sent him home without examining him, the hospital was not liable as this was not the reason for his death. No treatment could have saved Mr Barnett anyway, therefore, the claim failed.
What if There are Multiple Factors Involved?
If someone has an injury or an illness, but there is more than one potential cause, then you’d need to prove that the damage was caused by the incident that is being claimed for which can be tricky.
If there are multiple causes of a death, injury or illness, and they’re seen as cumulative, there may still be a successful claim.
This is because if the cause was on its own, then it may not have had such a bad effect although acting together, the outcome could be a lot worse.
A claim that was unsuccessful was the case of Wilsher v Essex Area Health Authority. When a baby was born, a junior doctor refused to give it oxygen upon birth. Potentially because of that decision, the baby became blind.
However, the junior doctor could not be blamed as the oxygen was just one of five possibilities as to why the baby became blind. It wasn’t possible to identify which one of those five reasons was the reason as to why the baby lost its sight, so that medical negligence case was unsuccessful.
However, should the oxygen definitely have contributed towards the baby’s blindness, then there would have been a claim. However, it could not be proved.
Are the Effects of Medical Negligence Categorised Differently?
To put it simply, yes, medical negligence is categorised on different scales. There are two categories:
- Divisible – Where the injury or illness is caused by having too much of a drug or anaesthetic.
- Indivisible – When it isn’t linked to the amount of a dose, but instead, linked to injecting a drug into the wrong part of the body.
If you’re unsure whether to go forward and make a claim against someone in the medical field, then the best option would be to speak to a professional. The team at Enable Law would be happy to help and would be able to advise in the best possible way.