Medical negligence system must change

Kerry J Breen and David Weisbrot
Med J Aust 2015; 202 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00289
Published online: 15 June 2015

To the Editor: A recent medical negligence decision of the Queensland Court of Appeal in a case involving damages of $6.7 million1 further supports the suggestion that Australia should follow the example of six other nations and switch to a no-fault medical indemnity/insurance system.2 The case concerned a 49-year-old woman who became severely disabled (blind and deaf) as the result of cryptococcal meningitis. Key clinical questions that the Court of Appeal judges needed to decide included the subtleties of distinguishing neck stiffness suggestive of meningitis from that due to cervical spondylosis; recognition by a general practitioner of other symptoms suggesting the gradual onset of this rare type of meningitis; and the timeliness of their referring the patient to a specialist. This case illustrates the weaknesses of the fault-based medical negligence system, which focuses on assigning blame rather than promptly assisting the catastrophically injured. This approach usually involves inordinate delays, the lottery of the court process, and the waste of valuable resources.

  • Kerry J Breen1
  • David Weisbrot2

  • 1 Monash University, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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