Medical Law Research Investigates Contentious Issue of Medical Malpractice Claims

Mr Cameron Mathew Theron
Master of Laws in Medical Law graduate, Mr Cameron Mathew Theron.

Against the background of medical malpractice claims being an issue plaguing the South African healthcare system, Master of Laws in Medical Law graduate Mr Cameron Mathew Theron plans to contribute new knowledge to the way healthcare disputes are handled.

‘From my research, it was clear to me that medical malpractice claims in South Africa have increased at an exponential rate, placing extreme pressure on our healthcare systems, as well as users of those systems,’ said Theron.

The study was titled: The Negative Impact that the Rise in Medical Malpractice Litigation has had on South Africa’s Healthcare System: Recommendations for Reform and was supervised by Professor Jerome Singh.

‘My passion was derived from the opportunity I had to contribute towards improving the way in which we deal with healthcare disputes as a nation,’ said Theron.

The study cites challenges including a decline in professionalism amongst the Medical fraternity, lack of resources within the public healthcare sector, amendments to legislation which regulate Road Accident Fund claims, and a shift from paternalism to patient autonomy as some of the main reasons behind the drastic rise in medical malpractice claims. It highlights that the public healthcare sector is now under more strain than ever with the State allocating large sums of its available funds to contingent liability in order to settle and defend claims against the Department of Health.

‘In order to combat the medical malpractice crisis that we currently find ourselves in, I am of the belief that, among other minor solutions to be proposed, a Medico-Legal Disputes Forum (MLDF) and specialist division of the High Court should be created. The Forum will aim to settle medical malpractice disputes by way of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and the specialist division of the High Court will preside over personal injury claims referred to it by the MLDF, a similar system to that of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and Labour Court,’ said Theron.

While Law is his passion, Cameron, who is an admitted Attorney, is also interested in Medicine leading him to explore the important field of Medical Law.

‘My interests were further sparked by the creation and implementation of a uniform set of rules to govern the point where two professions – Law and Medicine – overlap with one another and thus eliminate, or at least mitigate against, the consequences that flow from instances where the aforementioned overlap creates disputes,’ he said.

Theron has also challenged himself in his professional career by opting for a career change at the age of 26. He recently ceased practicing as a commercial law attorney and joined the maritime industry as an in-house commercial and legal officer.

‘At the beginning of this year, I decided to make a complete career change and left Brookes Attorneys to join SHINC Shipping Services, a shipping, clearing and forwarding agency with branches across South Africa. I am happy with my decision as I am able to utilise the skills and knowledge I gained from the legal profession, within another industry, whilst gaining a completely new set of skills and increasing my knowledge.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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