Thursday, 31 January 2013

Law report - hospital negligence

Williams v The Bermuda Hospitals Board [2013] SC (Bda) 1 Civ

The Plaintiff had gone into ER complaining of pains in his abdomen, which turned out to be appendicitis. He was seen after just over an hour, and the doctor ordered a scan. He had been in the hospital about three hours by the time the scan was ordered.

He was eventually scanned more than seven hours after his arrival, and the scan was sent overseas to be interpreted. It was another two hours before the results came back.

Eleven hours after arrival, he was finally operated on. It was noted that he had a ruptured appendix and acute appendicitis. There were complications during surgery, which resulted in a two week hospital stay.

He sued the hospital for having a system set up which negligently failing to diagnose and treat his appendicitis within a reasonable time.

There is a question as to whether hospital systems should be judged according to accepted professional standards (as in Bull v Devon Area Health Authority (English Court of Appeal)); or regardless of them, as in Collins v Mid Western Health Board (Irish Supreme Court). Hellman J held that a hospital system must be scrutinised on its merits. The court should take account of generally accepted practices. Insofar as medical matters are engaged, they will be judged according to whether they are accepted by a responsible body of medical opinion. Medical and administrative matters might overlap [92].

Hellman J found that the hospital was negligent due to the delay in diagnosing and treating Mr Williams, which caused him the pain and suffering of having to wait so long for surgery. However, he was unable to find that the delays were probably the cause of the further complications.

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