News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Complaints inspired by concern for future patients

May 31, 2006

Most medical complaints are motivated by concern for future patients

Latest research by medical law expert Dr Marie Bismark shows that most people who file a complaint with the Health and Disability Commissioner are hoping to protect others from similar harm.

Dr Bismark, a senior solicitor in law firm Buddle Findlay, told a healthcare mediation symposium in Auckland today (Wednesday, May 31) that people who took medico-legal action after a medical injury had a range of motivations, including a desire for compensation, correction, communication or sanction.

"Money may provide compensation at one level, but it does not satisfy a person's interest in knowing what is being done to prevent a recurrence of an event that may have cost a person's life," she says.

"Research shows that even among complainants who have suffered the death of a friend or family member through an adverse medical event, the level of goodwill, forgiveness, and altruism is striking.

"For example, the daughter of a woman who died of undiagnosed liver cancer wrote: 'If lessons can be learned that would be a good thing. I miss my mum immensely and do this in her memory to help raise the standard of health in our beautiful country'."

Dr Bismark's research findings are attracting the attention of US medical and legal experts concerned about the excesses of America's litigious approach to medical malpractice approach. In the American medical malpractice system, monetary damages are often the only form of accountability available to patients.

"The American system is very expensive – some doctors are paying upwards of $100,000 for professional indemnity insurance – yet it frequently fails to recognize patients' needs for an apology, explanation, or safer care.

"My research adds weight to earlier international findings that, for many injured patients, it's not just about the money."

In New Zealand, no-fault compensation is available through ACC, while the Health and Disability Commissioner can provide patients with an explanation of what went wrong, recommend an apology, and take steps to protect future patients.

"By offering both monetary compensation, through ACC, and non-monetary forms of accountability, through HDC, the New Zealand system does a much better job of meeting injured patients needs than American-style medical malpractice litigation."

• Marie Bismark was a 2004-2005 Harkness Fellow in Healthcare Policy at the Department of Health . She is focusing on medical-legal issues working at national law firm Buddle Findlay.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

Gordon Campbell: Best New Music Of 2017

Any ‘best of list’ has to be an exercise in wishful thinking, given the splintering of everyone’s listening habits... But maybe… it could be time for the re-discovery of the lost art of listening to an entire album, all the way through. Just putting that idea out there. More>>

Scoop Review of Books: Ten x Ten - One Hundred of Te Papa's Best-Loved Art Works

An idiosyncratic selection by ten art curators, each of whom have chosen ten of their favourite works. Handsomely illustrated, their choices are accompanied by full-page colour prints and brief descriptions of the work, explaining in straightforward and approachable language why it is of historical, cultural, or personal significance. More>>

Scoop Review of Books: Portacom City - Reporting On Canterbury Earthquakes

In Portacom City Paul Gorman describes his own deeply personal story of working as a journalist during the quakes, while also speaking more broadly about the challenges that confront reporters at times of crisis. More>>

Scoop Review of Books: Christopher Pugsley’s The Camera in the Crowd - Filming in New Zealand Peace and War 1895-1920

Pugsley brings to life 25 exhilarating years of film making and picture screening in a sumptuously illustrated hardback published by Oratia that tells the story through surviving footage unearthed from the national film archives. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland