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Compensation as a right?

By Valerie Yule - posted Monday, 8 October 2007

Some proposals for reform have included compulsory professional indemnity insurance as a pre-requisite for medical registration, mandatory reporting of medical negligence litigation to enable a database to be built up, compulsory mediation for cases, capping damages, use of structured settlements to assure less unpredictable outcomes of litigation, and Good Samaritan legislation to protect doctors giving assistance in emergencies.

But can there be alternatives to the common law tort system for compensating adverse medical outcomes? It could seem fairer if on the one hand, evidence of gross negligence provided by victims is vigorously pursued by authorities so that incompetent doctors do not continue practice and grossly negligent ones are punished, and on the other hand, victims of health disasters are provided with the necessities for their care by the state without having to litigate.

In Australia there are already no-fault compensation schemes for workers compensation and injuries in motor vehicle accidents, and these could well be extended to a no-fault scheme for medical adverse outcomes, as in New Zealand, funded in a similar way.


This would have many consequences beyond the immediate issues of equity for victims of accidents, lowering medical costs, less anxiety for doctors without lessening of responsibilities, and less general waste of human resources - and even less waste of paper - as in current litigation.

In our individualist society, we often do not realise that what individuals do can have multiple and ramified social consequences.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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Related Links
ACC Medical indemnity insurance - third monitoring report
Fact sheet on Medical indemnity insurance: affordable and secure
Rachel Callinan. Medical Negligence and Professional Indemnity Insurance Background Paper No 02/2001
The growth in professional indemnity - Insurance House Group

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