Sunday, February 06, 2005

$2.6m awarded against the NSW Ambulance Service

Paramedics administered adrenaline to a postman who suffered a severe allergy after being stung by a bee. Unfortunately, this was administered into the vein, causing a brain artery to burst.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported (note: registration required) that

The ambulance officers followed treatment protocols, ... and administered adrenalin in the only way they were permitted, into the vein. But the court had found this treatment was appropriate only in cases where the patient was close to death.

The situation is trickier for doctors. In the case of a doctor reported earlier in this blog, he followed the treatment protocol of the hospital, and discharged a young girl after she had a fall. The young girl later died of head injuries.

Now you'd think the doctor would be in the clear, given that he had followed the hospital's protocol. Not quite. The young girl's parents took action through the Health Practitioners Tribunal, citing malpractice.

Unfortunately, the legal position is still not clear, as the doctor pleaded guilty, saying that he just wanted to "move on".

(Note to foreign readers: Public hospitals are free in Australia, and there is always a shortage of beds. One can imagine these protocols are there in part to make sure beds are available for the critical cases. Doctors are in an untenable position here, since they are forced do make decisions constrained by scarce resources.)

Incidentally, Medical Indeminity Insurance does not provide for cases where malpractice was alleged. It only covers for civil cases.


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