Without having access to the full judgement, the South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SASOG) notes with concern the court judgement that upheld the sentencing of a colleague in a case of professional negligence.
We lament the loss of the young mother following a complicated normal delivery and our hearts go out to the family that lost a mother, sister and daughter.
SASOG supports all efforts to prevent loss of life during childbearing and our own programme to support excellence in clinical practise in Obstetrics, called BetterObs, has been implemented in most private institutions in South Africa. Generally, South African professionals are renowned for their excellence and our private health care sector is world class.
Obstetrics is a specialty at high risk for unexpected poor outcomes for both mother and child, which cannot always be prevented. The accompanying significant medicolegal risks has led to an exodus of specialists and defensive medicine is gaining momentum.
In cases of poor outcome and suspected clinical negligence, it should be investigated, and SASOG respects the findings and verdicts of our courts. The sentence passed in this case is however of concern, due to the precedent it creates, the plight of skills in our country, as well as the effects on the individual doctor, his community and the medical and obstetrical profession.
We further hold the opinion that the complexity and expense of repetitive hearings in different forums place an undue burden on the profession. As part of our submission to a recent parliamentary committee, SASOG voiced our support of the principle of a single special tribunal assisted by a selected panel of experts which follows an inquisitorial rather than an adversarial process.
SASOG also has serious ongoing concerns about escalating medical malpractice claims relating to changes in the legal landscape, contingency fee litigation and the magnitude of awards made by the courts. We call for urgent sector-wide law reform to address these issues.
The Society is dedicated to the furtherment of our discipline, we are devoted to the welfare of our members and the improvement of the health and wellness of the patient population that we serve. We will continue to support our members and seek the best possible solutions to bring justice and restitution to those harmed during medical treatment whether associated with clinical negligence or not.