HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsCan you sue a hospital or doctor?

Can you sue a hospital or doctor?


I would like to know if I can sue a medical institution for pain and emotional distress over misdiagnosis.

Saturday Dialogue with Ropafadzo Mapimhidze

About two weeks ago, I went to a well-known hospital in the Avenues area for a check when I was told that my kidneys were malfunctioning.

It came to me as a shock because I had come for a blood pressure and diabetes check following an accident I had with my car.

I just stared at the ceiling in the observation room with fear as I started seeing vision, of people mourning over me, a dead body that was about to be buried at some graveyard in Harare. I instantly turned black due to shock.

This is because kidney failure is a serious condition and for those that have this problem, it is financially draining because treatment is expensive and unaffordable for the ordinary person.
Most people die within a few years after being diagnosed with this condition in Zimbabwe.

Even those on medical aid cannot afford some of the procedures that one has to undergo and hence the reason I thought my death was just around the corner.

“The results don’t look good. Your kidneys need to be worked on and we are admitting you straight away,” said the doctor.

This was being said as I was lying down with a saline drip that was supposed to bring down the sugar levels which had shot up after I had had the accident two weeks earlier.

My blood pressure was also brought to safe levels, but the sugar levels suddenly shot up because news about my kidneys failing had kind of jolted every body part.

I was crying. I wept so much that when I told my children who live overseas, they too became depressed.

Too many things were happening within a short space of time.
My car was in the garage for repairs after the accident that could have killed me, and now a worse condition had been diagnosed.

The doctor ordered the nurses on duty to start preparing me for admission and as I was waiting to get admission forms to fill in, the same doctor returned two hours later and told me that there had been a mix-up.

Some medical personnel had mistakenly put results of another patient in my folder and hence the reason why the doctor had started making arrangements for hospitalisation.

It was such a relief but that is when it dawned on me that, I had in the past written about malpractices by doctors in hospitals, and yet not a single one of them has never really been charged for these wrongdoings.

I was so terrified with the kidney failure results. It was like a death sentence passed onto me and there I was pondering how I would get home to get my nighties, toothbrush and other personal stuff for hospitalisation.

This incident revived memories of many people who lost their loved ones through a health system whose practices cannot be questioned.
I remember very well about nine-year-old Tinashe Hungwe who became a humancabbage following a procedure to rectify some minor problem on the throat in early 2000.

The kid, who should now be now over 20, walked into the hospital as fit as fiddle, but when the kid woke up he was just as good as dead. I have tried making follow-ups on this young person to find out what has happened to him with no success.

In 2007, one of my uncles called John Tamirepi was hospitalised at Harare Central Hospital for a hip bone replacement when one junior doctor, who apparently acted as a front of a senior doctor, demanded some ridiculous amounts so that he jumps the theatre queue.

I made a lot of noise about the issue and even attended a hearing over the matter at the hospital where this saga was discussed.
I was dismayed when I was told that the hospital could not afford to fire the doctor because there was a serious shortage of experienced and qualified doctors in Zimbabwe.

The reason was acceptable, but I am not sure whether this particular doctor, an orthopaedic specialist was ever reprimanded at all.

Every time I bump into this othopaedic surgeon along a road or meet at some intersection as when we are driving, he gives me this long stare that literally tells me that “so did your reporting me yield and results?”

Such is the tragedy befalling our medical institutions where those with money get first preference to those who are poor.
At the hospital where my uncle was admitted, lay a man who had stayed in that ward for nearly one year because he was always told that there was a long queue before him.

According to Enlighten Me, a website on the Internet, medical malpractice is a lawsuit brought against a physician who provides incompetent care. The following are some of the tips about suing your doctor for medical malpractice:

Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury: This means that it is a form of tort litigation and the trial — if it goes to trial — will be in state court. Your doctor is entitled to a jury trial, and a jury will decide what happens. Your damages for the injury, since it is a tort, can include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and in some cases punitive damages.

Doctors must behave according to a reasonable standard of care: When a jury determines whether your doctor committed medical malpractice, it will compare his behaviour to how a reasonably competent doctor would have behaved. A poor medical result is not necessarily always medical malpractice, unless your doctor breached this duty to be reasonably competent.

Failure to obtain informed consent is a form of medical malpractice: When you undergo a medical treatment, your doctor is required to obtain informed consent.

The consent must be truly informed, which means he must have explained the procedure, any potential risks or side effects, and your other options. If your doctor didn’t obtain informed consent, you may be entitled to legal damages.

A misdiagnosis can also be a form of medical malpractice: If a reasonably competent doctor would have diagnosed you correctly, then the failure of your doctor to make the right diagnosis can be a form of medical malpractice. If the misdiagnosis injured you, you may be able to obtain compensation through a lawsuit.

I would like to know if there are any doctors that have been struck off the register like what happens to faltering lawyers. Let’s hear your story. lFeedback:rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw

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