Malpractice mania: One doc fights back - and wins
Surgeon wins court battle with patient as provincial health departments face mounting legal action
North West surgeon Samuel Smith has won a lengthy court battle against a patient who accused him of negligence, in an important case for the medical fraternity that is grappling rising malpractice claims.
The patient sued Smith because the complications she suffered after keyhole surgery left her with a damaged colon and a blood infection, and she spent months in hospital.
Rabia Beukes blamed the doctor for her complications, saying he did not explain the risks of the procedure. She said she had not given “informed” consent, despite signing a consent form.
Smith endured more than two years of litigation through the high court and then the Supreme Court of Appeal, which found in his favour.
What swayed the court were detailed notes Smith had written to the patient’s medical aid, asking for funding for keyhole surgery instead of riskier open surgery. The court found that he must have explained the different options and risks to Beukes if he had written such a detailed motivation to the medical aid.
An advocate commenting on the case, Natasha Naidoo, of Norton Rose Fulbright, said the lesson for doctors was for them to keep notes proving how they explained the risks to the patient. This would reduce the probability of lengthy legal battles.
The incidence of medical negligence cases against doctors has been rising over the past years, with patients often blaming doctors when something goes wrong...