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Hospital errors and the role of a medical malpractice lawyer

  • November 16, 2016
  • by Will Davidson LLP
  • accident, contamination, hospital error, injury lawyer, liability, medical malpractice, personal injury, personal injury law, Personal Injury Lawyer, prescription error, Toronto personal injury lawyer, Will Davidson LLP,

When a patient is admitted to a hospital in Ontario, they are owed a certain standard of care by the staff and medical practitioners working at that facility. Unfortunately, that standard is not always kept, and at times, injuries resulting from the negligent behaviour of medical professionals can lead to medical malpractice lawsuits.

In Canada, medical malpractice cases are notoriously hard to prosecute, meaning many victims of hospital errors are left to fend for themselves. While an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you understand your legal footing, initiating a claim by no means guarantees compensation.

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The case of Mary Archer

On October 14, the Toronto Star published a moving story about Toronto resident Mary Archer, an expecting mother who, in 2009, was admitted to St. Michael’s hospital to replace a shunt which had been inserted a few year prior. Her case illustrates not only the devastating impact that a serious medical injury can have on a family’s life, but also the difficulties a medical malpractice lawyer may face in trying to earn compensation for their client.

The night following the surgery, Archer, who was alone in her hospital room, fell on her way to the bathroom. She was found, underwent a CT scan, and determined to be healthy; later that same night, she choked on her own vomit and fell into a coma.

Thirty-five days later, Archer woke up severely brain damaged, unable to walk independently and barely able to speak. She would remain in hospital for three and a half years before being released to her parents care.

“The result of that evening has left Mary’s life, and ours, in tatters,” wrote her parents in a 2014 letter to St. Michael’s hospital. “We are exhausted, and devastated as we struggle – still – to put out lives back together.” Mary’s mother, Heather MacDonald-Archer, told the Star that Mary’s ordeal was “like a nightmare that you never wake up from.”

In the years following Mary’s initial fall (she fell a total of five times during her stay at St. Mike’s), her parents initiated two lawsuits against the hospital, but dropped them when they “ran out of money.” Years of caring for their daughter has left them in financial trouble: they sold two homes, one in Toronto and one in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, where they planned to retire, and moved into a small apartment. They have spent $43,000 per year on Mary’s care, without access to compensation.

While the Archers have received an apology from St. Michael’s CEO, the fact that it came without financial compensation ‘renders it empty.’ Ella Ferris, the hospital’s executive vice president, told the family in a letter that “HIROC (the Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada) has confirmed that it is not in a position to re-open a closed claim where there has been a final disposition of the litigation. It is our understanding that a court-approved dismissal, or discontinuance, is considered to be a final disposition of an action.”

Part of a pattern

Mary Archer’s case, while discouraging, is not unique in Canada. According to a widely-cited 2004 study by Ross Baker and Peter Norton, approximately 70,000 per year experience preventable, serious injuries as a result of medical treatments. Across the country, those injuries are believed to have led to as many as 23,000 deaths, which up to 9,143 occurring in Ontario. In 2013, just 29 serious injuries and six deaths due to adverse medical errors were reported in the province. With or without the help of a medical malpractice lawyer, few malpractice cases are brought before Canada’s courts, and less are resolved in favour of the victim.

Although malpractice cases can be complex, lengthy, and expensive to litigate, a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can help your family cope with the devastating effects of a serious medical injury. If you or a member of your family has been injured through an act of medical negligence or malpractice, contact Will Davidson LLP today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced, compassionate lawyers can help you better understand your case and guide your through the legal process.

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