Medical negligence reforms will harm health care

A Federal Government report proposing to allow doctors to decide if a doctor has been negligent has been criticised by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

‘The proposed changes would reverse important improvements in health care over the past decade,’ says Ms Amanda Cornwall, head of the Health Consumer Advocacy Unit at the Centre.

The proposals in the First Report of the Law of Negligence Review give a panel of medical experts the role of deciding whether a medical practitioner’s treatment is negligent. It would displace the role of judges to decide the appropriate standard of care provided to a patient, according to the Centre.

‘The move to evidence based medicine and treating consumers as partners in their health care are the result of doctors being accountable through the courts,’ says Ms Cornwall.

‘The proposals would be a return to an era when doctors decided what is best for patients and can ignore the views of the community’, says Ms Cornwall.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre supports court appointed independent medical experts to address the need for the courts to have assistance in technical medical issues. However, it says doctors should not replace the role of judges.

According to PIAC, the proposals restrict the rights of consumers without offering solutions to the commercial failure of the insurance and medical indemnity industries. ‘The reforms introduced in NSW last year restricted consumer’s rights but did not prevent a major hike in premiums and the collapse of United Medical Protection.’

‘There need to be guarantees that premiums will be sustainable and the insurance and indemnity industries are sustainable’, says Ms Cornwall.

PIAC will continue its work with the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council Medical Indemnity Working Party and Consultative Forum which is examining proposals to reform the legal process for medical negligence claims and structured settlements.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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