A lawyer breaks down the negligence case that has alarmed doctors

Every now and then, a case crops up which is far from straightforward. Medicolegal expert Bill Madden explains.

The law, perhaps like medicine, seems easy enough to apply in many circumstances.

In medical negligence law, more than 90% of cases don’t require a judge to make a formal decision.

But every now and then a case arises that isn’t straightforward — a court decision is then required and we learn a little more about the legal framework.

We’ve seen that recently in the Liverpool Hospital case where doctors treating a boy for an open fracture decided, in line with clinical guidelines, to prescribe flucloxacillin but not gentamicin. The boy’s thumb was subsequently amputated after it became gangrenous. 

At the first hearing, the trial judge ruled in favour of the boy, finding that South Western Sydney Local Health District, where the doctors worked, was negligent. [