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Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Value of Justice?

Eva Hudson should have been able to feel she was in safe hands when she was taken to A/E at Bournemouth Hospital in December last year. She had been rushed to the hospital with all the signs of kidney failure. Tragically, an inexperienced doctor diagnosed a rare kind of infection and sent her home.

She died four days later.

At her inquest in Bournemouth last week the coroner found that neglect contributed to her death. This was a straightforward and treatable condition and her tragic death was caused by the doctors’ failure to recognise and treat the symptoms. The Hospital trust was also at fault for placing this doctor in a position where life and death decisions were being made without adequate supervision.

Her family should have a clear case against the trust for negligence. But they will face hurdles. I cannot comment on this particular case but it does bring a general injustice to mind.

Any claim against the NHS is effectively a claim against the government. This is now a difficult exercise because another department of the government has abolished Legal Aid for medical negligence cases in all but a tiny minority of cases. So if a person is not wealthy what do they do? They may find a solicitor who will pursue the case on a no win no fee basis – in the face of heavy medial and political hostility. And even then the lawyer will have to spend several thousand pounds to investigate the case. Or, as is most likely, the case will never see the light of day.

These cuts will come into effect in April next year. How many victims will be deprived of justice before this is changed?

We have seen hundreds of billions of pounds spent on bailing out a banking industry which shows no sign of changing its ways. The legal aid cuts amount to £350m. Interestingly the Foreign Office has recently tendered that amount for a new desk top overhaul!

The value of justice?

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