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Queensland's unfair medical negligence laws

By Mark O'Connor - posted Monday, 19 February 2018

A recent report on complications suffered by patients in our hospitals has focused attention on the grim reality that the legal system in Queensland is geared against negligence claims against doctors and hospitals.

Victims must negotiate a tortuous and expensive claims process greatly hampered by the fact that Queensland specialists are usually unwilling to give evidence against their peers in the medical profession.

A new report by the Grattan Institute recently aired in the media showing one in every nine patients who go to hospital in Australia end up suffering a complication is just the tip of a medical issues iceberg.


The complications statistic rises to one in four for those who stay in hospital overnight - about 725,000 each year.

While not all complications would be negligent or unavoidable, it is likely that a proportion of them would be arising out of negligent medical treatment, or unsatisfactory pre-operative-or post-operative care.

Despite this, the sad fact is the medical negligence compensation system in Queensland is geared against patient claims.

If a claim is brought against a doctor or hospital then a complex and expensive (to the victim) process begins.

After giving an initial notice which gives the basic details of the client's claim, a potential claimant must within 12 months, before a claim can proceed, provide a report from a medical specialist.

This is to assess the incident and to provide an advice that the injury suffered by the patient was caused by a failure to meet an appropriate standard of care, the reason for that opinion and a confirmation that as result of the failure, the injured person suffered personal injury.


The difficulty with this is that commonly, Queensland specialists are unwilling to give evidence against their peers in the medical profession. Interestingly, in my experience, they are less reluctant to give medical evidence supporting their fellow doctors.

This means that someone who wishes to bring a claim needs to, more often than not, seek medical opinion from an interstate doctor. This often involves having to fly interstate to be examined with all the expense associated with that with either the patient or the lawyer representing the patient paying that specialist's fee which more often than not would be in the broad range of about $2000 and $3500.

This means that no matter how gross the negligence by a treating doctor or hospital, a plaintiff/patient needs to incur expenses often in the broad range of $2500-$4500 for travel costs to and from generally Sydney and Melbourne and the cost of the specialist report.

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