How To Handle A Potential Medicolegal Case?

Potential Medicolegal cases are on the rise due to patient awareness towards compensation claims (ex-gratia) and court litigation leading to a compensation scheme. After being crippled by the pandemic , healthcare workers all around the world are still struggling to cope with the patient’s high demands e.g quality healthcare facilities and overall services. Daily in all major city hospitals, healthcare workers face a tsunami of patients who are in need of acute care and hospital admission. This scenario alone is enough to trigger potential medicolegal complaints and further cripple the union of healthcare staff.

Common issues that leads to a potential medicolegal complaint:

  • Lack of staff
  • staff competency
  • poor communication between healthcare staff and patients in terms of updating patient progress.

Once a potential medicolegal case is identified , a grievance mechanism meeting is held between healthcare staff and the patient to help mediate so that it does not escalate to court litigation. If that fails then an internal inquiry is held with the aim to mediate and agree to a compensation (ex gratia). We try to avoid litigation as it takes a long time to settle and the agony of the whole process can be stressful and traumatic for both parties.

Hospital internal inquiry , summon and subpoena is common news to all healthcare staff in the healthcare industry. To all those in healthcare , please DO NOT PANIC when you are called into an inquiry or to the court.

  • Summon is a legal document prepared by the plaintiff and is issued by a court that informs the defendant that they are being sued or are required to appear in court.
  • Subpoena is a legal document that requires its recipient to appear in court as a witness. Whenever you have received a subpoena , it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.It just means you may have information that’s needed by the court.
  • Internal Inquiry is a meeting held following a potential medico legal complaint. The affected healthcare provider will be called in for an interview to establish facts

In all situations , attendance during court proceedings and meetings is mandatory. Things can get daunting of course but you will have to trust the legal system to do their part in obtaining facts and defending cases. It goes the same with internal inquiry meetings , panels during the inquiry will ask relevant questions to better understand what has led to the alleged complaint. Panels are usually appointed senior consultants that represent the affected department. Post inquiry the report conclusion will generate prompts to better improve the short falls that have been identified.

How should you behave during an internal inquiry or court proceeding?

  • Please be punctual when attending meetings and court proceedings . It is good to have a healthy rapport with your medico legal team and legal officer.I can assure you they are doing their best in defending you and to represent the case that they are responsible for.
  • Introduce yourself and give a brief history of your working experience during an inquiry to “warm up”
  • When answering questions – stay calm and try to explain in simple terms. Be truthful and try to remember the event chronology during your encounter with the patient. It is best to admit that you are unsure if you are genuinely unsure.

Always remember that the aim of these cases has always been fact finding and not fault finding. Stress and fatigue from our daily clinical errands can indeed contribute to more mental and emotional stress. It is wise to seek help if the stress is unbearable.

Remember we are first and foremost human beings. As healthcare professionals we are bound to the duty of care as best we can. To produce quality care is first to take care and to love ourselves more before we can commit ourselves to the service.

Good luck!

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