21 October 2009
It may be possible to claim compensation if you have suffered sexual, physical or emotional abuse by a healthcare professional whilst receiving medical treatment either at home or at hospital.
Leigh Day & Co has represented a number of clients who have sought compensation following, physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The abuse can occur in many situations.
Maria Panteli, solicitor in the clinical negligence department, was successful in obtaining compensation for a woman who was under the care of a community psychiatrist nurse after he sexually and emotionally abused her over a sustained period. The patient had been referred to psychiatric services by her GP where she was diagnosed with chronic anxiety disorder and depression. She was to be treated by a community psychiatric nurse with anxiety management exercises and it was during these sessions, which took place in her home, that the sexual assaults happened.
In other cases, the sexual assaults have taken place whilst the patient has been receiving inpatient psychiatric treatment for an eating disorder and whilst receiving outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction.
Such abuse often leads to a decline in a patient's mental health and can have a negative impact on their recovery. Furthermore, the abuser often tells or makes the patient conceal the "relationship" not only from their family and friends but also from other health professionals.
The hospital, social care or mental health Trust responsible for the healthcare professional, is vicariously liable for the breach of duty of care of the abuser because an employer is responsible for the actions of its employees. Their patient should have been treated with reasonable professional care and skill, and the healthcare professional should not have entered into a sexual and intimate relationship with a patient.
The relationship between a healthcare professional and a patient is one of trust. Sexual abusers, as a result of their position, often silence their victims by convincing them that they will not be believed. The power differential between a healthcare professional and a vulnerable patient is so great that any sexual contact between them cannot be a mutual act. The patient cannot give properly informed consent and the situation is enormously destructive. A patient is often left feeling confused and fearful and experiences a great deal of shame and guilt about the incidents and their inability to stop them happening.
Leigh Day & Co has also represented victims of physical abuse. Maria Panteli has successfully represented patients who have received inappropriate treatment whilst being an inpatient in a psychiatric unit. Such cases often involve the inappropriate use of restraint and tranquillising medication without the use of de-escalation techniques first, or in situations where there is no or no proper justification for doing so. The use of de-escalation techniques would have given the patient information about the process, risk and options available to the patient to avoid this occurring.
Whilst money can never completely compensate a person for the distress and trauma caused by abuse, financial compensation can help to rebuild and improve the quality of a victim’s life. Also, just as importantly, the award of compensation and often an apology from the Trust is recognition that what has been done was wrong and that it was not the person’s fault.
If you would like more information about such claims, please contact Maria Panteli
or Frances Swaine
020 7650 1200.
Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.