Costs of negligence

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 12:00am


Behind the closed doors of medical negligence disputes it is not uncommon for a doctor to face a lawsuit over a delivery that took place as long as 21 years ago. Hence the high-risk label attached to obstetrics.

In addition, it is an area of medicine where patients go into a situation healthy, and expect to come out with an equally fit child.

'It's to do with the expectations of the patient,' says Dr Tim Hegan, international operations manager of the Medical Protection Society.

About 50 per cent of claims against doctors go away completely and of the remainder, just 3 per cent go to court. As a result, details that have been made public of damages paid out are scant.

Cases involving infants are among the most costly, according to Dr Hegan.

For a child who incurs brain defects during delivery, damages are likely to be in the region of GBP4.5 million ($66.5 million). This holds true for both Britain and Hong Kong.

Factored into the figure is the future loss of earnings, says Henry Lok Hing-sun, a solicitor at law firm Oldham, Li and Nie.

'Also, because of the extra expenses in the long-term care of the baby, obviously it's more expensive than other [cases],' he says.