Medical negligence: Sick and be damned
Every day the press is littered with stories of deaths and serious illnesses caused by healthcare-acquired infections (HCAIs). The stream of tragedy seems endless. You would think that these deserving victims would be able to rely on the law for redress, but this rarely proves to be the case. We read articles and hear talk about the possibilities of civil or criminal proceedings being brought by HCAI victims. In practice, however, only a small number of cases proceed to court. Patients are usually left with no meaningful redress, despite the fact that in many cases the infection could have been prevented by measures as simple as hand-washing. It was difficult to miss the Government's much-trumpeted announcement about the decrease in the numbers of Clostridium difficile (C difficile) and MRSA cases. Accordingly, you would be forgiven for thinking that the problem was well in hand. However, 2007 figures from the Health Protection Agency show a staggering 58,098 cases of C difficile - more than 1,000 cases per week - and 4,919 cases of MRSA. Significantly, hospitals are not required to report most HCAIs, so we do not even know the true scale of the problem.
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