A joint international conference organised by the Medical Injuries Alliance and UK charity AvMA and supported by Augustus Cullen Law took place in Dublin at the Morrison Hotel on the 4th November 2013 and was very well received. The Conference was entitled “Patients’ Rights, Access to Justice and The Case for Candour” and was addressed by a number of eminent speakers including Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Liam McKechnie, Dr Tim McDonald, Chief Safety and Risk Officer at the University of Michigan, Chicago, Professor Moore McDowell Economist, Dr Ann Duffy, Clinical Risk Adviser at the State Claims Agency and Peter Walsh Chief Executive AvMA. The conference also heard moving account from families of children injured due to medical accidents.
The Conference was reported on by nearly all of the major media outlets in the country. The central theme of the conference was the call to introduce a duty of candour on healthcare professionals in reporting a medical accident or adverse event. The Conference heard from ordinary people who had become embroiled in lengthy and bitter litigation in an effort to secure justice for their loved ones, at a high cost both financially and emotionally when earlier acceptance of wrong doing by the hospital or doctor would have obviated the need for such adversarial litigation. Professor McDowell argued that such an adversarial approach to this type of litigation could be costing the State up to €350million annually. Dr McDonald spoke of his experience at the University of Michigan hospital where an open and transparent policy to adverse events was adopted some years ago resulting in a 90% decrease in the associated costs of such claims despite a 9 fold increase in the number of such claims.
Speaking on behalf of the State Claims Agency Dr Ann Duffy confirmed the roll-out of an open reporting policy at a number of Irish hospitals in an effort to deliver on the voiced belief of Agency chief Ciaran Breen: “At the heart of open disclosure lies the concept of open, honest and timely communication. Patients and relatives must receive a meaningful explanation”. Such an approach which is currently being trialled at 2 Irish hospitals is clearly to be welcomed, though the reality of the implementation of this approach may well differ from the aspirations behind it.
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28 November 2013