When do you express an opinion to a claimant?

When do you express an opinion to a claimant?

June 6, 2015

What do you think of my claim Doctor?

So do you think I’m mad or not?

Do you believe me?

Do you think I should go ahead with my claim?

So, do I reach the threshold?

Ever been asked these questions or similar. I know I have.

I saw a young woman for a solicitor, she had no money and the solicitor had asked me to see her briefly to decide whether or not to proceed to a full interview. Alison was a thin anxious woman with 2 children who she brought to the interview, fortunately they were quiet and not disruptive. Alison had a subdued, meek, almost child-like manner and seemed younger than her years.

Her story was unusual. She was suing a local hospital for having done a ‘therapeutic abortion’ that had been successful and for which she had given full consent.. The unusual part was that she had a bicornuate uterus and had a foetus in each component. The abortion had killed the foetus in one horn but not the other! This emerged as it became clear she was still pregnant. She proceeded to give birth full term to a healthy boy who was at the interview.

I was confused, was her claim that the hospital staff had not terminated both pregnancies? That seemed a reasonable claim. No, it was that the termination had been done at all,as her son did not have a twin.

I felt sorry for her, her situation, having to cart 2 kids around on a hot day etc.

She asked me ‘ What do you think of my claim Doctor?

Silly me, I had decided that there could be no claim on the basis of what she said, recognising I’m not a lawyer.

“ I am not a lawyer but it seems to me that if you signed a consent form, you can’t complain that they did an abortion”

Well, she swelled in size with outrage, her voice rose and she screamed at me, “ I was told I’d get hundreds of thousands of dollars, you’re a bloody idiot, I’m not going to say here and listen to this crap” . With which she got up and swept out of the office with her 2 kids. I was a little shell shocked. I told the solicitor what happened, she seemed un-fussed.

That was the last time I have ever given an opinion.

Now what I say is something like, ‘ I am not sure, you have given me a lot of information, I need to sit down and think it through.’

There are rare occasions when I strongly urge people to seek treatment and offer to speak to their GP. I negotiate with claimants about irrelevant history that I may exclude or make anodyne, eg ‘ my mother died of AIDS.’ Please don’t mention it, no-one in the family knows. It was not relevant to the work related back injury so it became ‘ his mother died of a chronic disease.’

I never comment on whether or not the claimant should or should not make a claim. A colleague told me of her distress when seeing a patient making a claim against a close friend of hers, a surgeon. I asked her what she did, she told me she had tried to persuade the claimant to abandon the claim!d ‘ I told him how much good my friend did and how upset he would be if he was sued.’

I told her that she had put herself in jeopardy, her opinion was now useless and she had behaved unprofessionally.

I think that you say as little as possible but in a pleasant way


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