Negligence Reforms Good News For Us Patients – 3 September 2002

“Our patients, called consumers by some, will be better off with recommendations of the Review of the Law of Negligence Report”, Dr Bruce Shepherd, Chairman of the Australian Doctors’ Fund said today.

The Review was chaired by Justice David Ipp and released its 98 page report this week with a second report to follow later this month.

Dr Shepherd said, “We are or will be patients, all 20 million of us, and we all want good medical treatment, particularly when we have a serious illness or injury.”

“Good doctors will not continue to work in a system where they do not know from one day to the next if they will be sued for what they are doing; especially when no one knows the hitherto ever changing rules.”

“These reforms will help bring stability and certainty to the practice of high risk medicine and prevent the loss of surgical services, particularly in Obstetrics, Neurosurgery and Orthopaedics.”

The reforms outlined by the Review of Negligence Panel also recommends some changes to the Trade Practices Act in order to prevent it being used as a loophole for personal injury litigation. These are complex matters of law, and Justice David Ipp has given a detailed explanation of why these changes are necessary.

Dr Shepherd said, “Extraordinarily, Prof Allan Fels, Chairman of the ACCC, has seen fit to use its media budget and position to whip up opposition to the Panel’s recommendations even prior to them being released.”

“One important aspect that seems to have been overlooked by Chairman Fels is that the Panel has been constituted by the federal government with the whole hearted endorsement of the States.”

“The fact that a public servant can use taxpayer funds to attempt to derail, through public criticism, the Panel’s recommendations before they have been considered by our elected representatives should be a cause for concern. Some may say it even represents inappropriate conduct for a public servant supposedly there to implement government policy not to formulate it”, Dr Shepherd said.