In December 2020, the Victorian Government announced its intention to introduce a Statutory Duty of Candour which would require health services to provide an apology where a patient has endured a serious medical event. The Duty is a supplementary mechanism to improve the compliance of, and support, the existing obligations of healthcare providers for open disclosure.
The Government says that a statutory duty of candour “is a legal obligation to ensure that consumers of healthcare and their families are apologised to, and communicated with, openly and honestly when things have gone wrong in their case.”
Whilst the apology would not amount to an admission of liability in legal proceedings, it is a welcome initiative and may improve the experience of patients who suffer poor outcomes after medical treatment or medical negligence. This initiative was recommended by a review of the Victorian health system undertaken by Dr Stephen Duckett.
The apology would be accompanied by the facts about what occurred, a description of the health service’s response and what has or will change in response to the incident. The factual explanations of what has occurred, which will be required to be provided under the duty, will not be protected and can be used as evidence in any legal proceedings.
In support of the individuals and families who commence medical negligence proceedings to try and effect change and ensure their experience is not repeated, or to find out what took place that resulted in their adverse outcome, Brave Legal welcomes any moves to increase transparency between health services and patients.