In recent years, there has been an increasing trend in the Cypriot Courts for patient complaints against doctors and hospitals claiming compensation and reparation for the damage they have suffered to their most valuable asset being the care of their health. Judicially, a significant number of decisions have been made awarding compensation to patients in the course of medical error, fault and/or negligence, as the related claims increase in the Courts. Patients are confronted with medical practices and actions that often endanger their lives. This fact has contributed to injured parties seeking information on their related legal rights and demanding such rights.
In defining the concept of medical negligence, I would like to point out that the broader term falls under the Civil Offences Act (Chapter 148) and the general negligence of any person training or practising in medicine. The main component in this respect is the level of competence of each medical practitioner in providing medical assistance and aid to the patient within their statutory duties of due diligence.
The patient which has suffered damage financially as well as physically is afforded the possibility of legally claiming and defending his rights by claiming, inter alia, compensation (general and specific) for alleged medical negligence and/or error. Cypriot Case Law sets out three conditions/parameters which need to be proved by the patient and examined by the Court, which are determined by the below:
- the existence of a legal duty of care towards the patient
- a negligent act or omission by the doctor, and evidence of breach of the duty of care and
- cause of harm, and in particular the evidence of deterioration in the patient's state of health or any other financial loss or damage sustained, as a consequence of the medical error
The most important legal element governing such claims, investigated by the Court, is the existence of the doctor's responsibility towards his patient, by means of proving fault in circumventing the rules of medical ethics, quality and principled care. In general, the Court examines the medical malpractice, and considers the normal practice of medicine and providing aid to patients with reasonable care and attention, carrying out instructions as well as the usual medical practice followed to show the causal link between the wrongful behavior of the physician and the outcome.
It is important for the patient to take timely action to enable him/her to pursue legal action if he/she suffers physical injury (even death) from a medical error and his or her health is impaired or adversely affected. If the patient is hospitalised in a public or private health care institution, and if any issue or concern regarding his/her state of health is raised, it is important that he/she notifies the physician treating him/her, the supervisor as well as the hospital, in writing. In addition, the patient should request a copy of his/her medical file and, in general, the medical records kept at that hospital, and where the medical injury is obvious, this can be recorded with photographic material.
The injured party may claim damages as mentioned above in a civil, general and specific offence, in cases of violation of medical duty of care, in which the victim suffers loss or damage, including the loss of income, medical expenses, loss of employment and/or opportunity, non-pecuniary damage, nominal, punitive and/or aggravating damages, plus legal costs. It is recommended that due to the scope of the legal claims that the victim and/or those having a valid interest to seek legal assistance, especially in cases involving serious bodily injury or even death, have the right to claim, taking into account the civil offence of medical negligence by the physician, in pursuant of the 2012 Conduct of Rights Offering Law (I) / 2012, noting that this is subject to a limitation period.
The components and parameters of medical malpractice and/or error and/or negligence are multiple and varied, and they are related to the diagnosis of the doctor, the general information of the patients, the necessary measures and the outcome. In cases of medical negligence, appropriate legal assistance is necessary considering the uniqueness of each case for the purpose of taking the appropriate legal proceedings to remedy and compensate for the damage suffered by the patient and/or parties having a legitimate interest. Courts tend to handle medical error assumptions with utmost care as it is an issue that links the complex disciplines of medicine and law and concerns health and human life.
The content of this article intends to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought on each particular case. For any further information, please contact Mr Savvas Savvides, Partner, at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: (+357)26930800.