Medical Injuries Alliance calls for Duty of Candour Legislation

The Medical Injuries Alliance has called for “Duty of Candour” legislation to eliminate unacceptable delays in the admission of medical negligence.

The Medical Injuries Alliance is an independent organisation that advocates on behalf of victims of medical negligence in Ireland. Among the organisation´s objectives are access to justice for all victims of medical negligence, appropriate compensation for injuries caused by medical negligence, and proper accountability when medical negligence has occurred.

Key to the Alliance achieving these objectives is candour among medical professionals and hospitals in revealing that a medical accident has occurred and disclosing why it has occurred. However, the Alliance claims that it is difficult to secure co-operation from medical professionals and Irish hospitals because of a “culture of fear” within the Health Service.

On the organization´s website, the Alliance has already called for duty of candour legislation – stating that “The duty of candour in hospitals and doctors should be placed on a statutory footing, entitling injured patients to an accurate account of how they came to suffer medical injury in Irish hospitals”, and that call has now been repeated in a letter to the Irish Times.

The letter – written by the Secretary of the Medical Injuries Alliance, Joice McCarthy – was in response to an article that appeared in last week´s Irish Times – commenting on the nine years it took for the Health Service Executive to acknowledge liability in a medical negligence compensation claim. The article concluded by saying that duty of candour legislation was introduced in the UK last year, and that similar laws are clearly needed in Ireland.

In her letter, Ms McCarthy agrees with the sentiments of the article, and suggests that many victims of medical negligence are forced to take legal action to find the answers to their questions. Ms McCarthy commented that patients who have been through the legal process describe it as a stressful and protracted experience.

Ms McCarthy alluded to the recent “shabby” public disagreement between the HSE and State Claims Agency about who was responsible for the length of time it took to resolve medical negligence claims, when she concluded her letter:

“Instead of blaming any particular State organisation, or indeed having different State organisations blame one another for the current difficulties, it is high time politicians simply acted to introduce a legal duty of candour in order to fix what seems to be a glaringly obvious problem”.