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How can I protect myself against medical negligence?

No medical/ dental/ cosmetic surgery is ever risk free. There is always a slim chance of something going wrong. Good medical travel agencies and surgeries/ hospitals will help you if something goes wrong. If something goes horribly wrong, that is not necessarily the fault of the hospital/ clinic.

To succeed in a legal claim for malpractice you have to prove that the hospital/ clinic was negligent, and that is never easy.

In some countries, the concept of negligence and malpractice is not recognised by the courts.

In others, people promoting medical tourism will claim that their courts are fair to everyone, whatever their nationality. But in reality, a foreigner is always at a huge disadvantage in any court.

The above problems may suggest that you should not travel overseas for treatment. But, in the UK, thousands suffer medical negligence or come out of hospital with a disease or bug that they caught there. Few try to sue the hospital. Fewer still succeed.

Insurance sold by hospitals

Some hospitals are said to be developing malpractice insurance cover which you can buy .The idea of a hospital asking you to pay them more money for an insurance which enables you to sue them if something goes wrong, may seem as absurd as a car thief offering you car insurance!

Legal expenses insurance

At present there is no cover from UK insurers, which you can buy strictly for medical negligence. You could buy a legal expenses insurance, but most insurers will not cover medical malpractice nor cover actions in courts outside the UK. You could try to sue an overseas hospital in the UK, but many have now adopted terms and conditions which means that when you sign up for surgery you agree that any legal dispute has to be settled in their country.

Cosmetic surgery insurance

Several special policies to cover the costs of repairing cosmetic surgery that goes wrong, have been on offer. All have been withdrawn from the market.

Patient medical malpractice insurance

Barbados based AOS Assurance has launched Patient Medical Malpractice Insurance  (PMMI). It is run by AON, the world’s biggest insurance broker, so has respectability. Insurance is available to UK residents but you will not have any protection for disputes with the insurer from the UK insurance authorities.

With the new scheme, AOS has been quite clever. They realise that trying to sue a hospital is not an easy task. So they have put together a policy which provides compensation if you suffer injury and/ or financial loss as a result of medical malpractice

Just as a travel policy does not require you to sue the airline that lost your baggage, or the hotel that cancelled your holiday, this insurance does not expect you to sue the hospital.

It is not an easy way of getting treatment paid for by alleging incompetence, as you have to both prove any financial loss or disfigurement.

There are substantial limitations. The main one is that the insurer will only cover hospitals that are authorised by the international arm of the US medical accreditation system,  Joint Commission International  (JCI)

  • It only covers treatment outside your home country,
  • It covers elective and non-elective procedures.
  • You buy cover before traveling for the medical or surgical procedure.
  • The premium is based on factors including the type and cost of the procedure.
  • This is not a policy that allows you to sue hospitals.
  • The insurance covers damages for-wage loss, cost of repair, out of pocket expenses and rehabilitation; disfigurement, loss of reproductive capacity; and death.

Other insurances

We know of several companies trying to develop special policies for the medical tourism industry, but so far all are in the negotiation stage. A number of people have made promises about new policies they are on the verge of agreeing with insurers, but so far these remain mere hopes.

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