Get legal advice first before seeking medical treatment overseas in case of problems, Government warns
Irish people considering medical treatment abroad are being urged to find out what legal actions can be taken if complications arise.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has issued updated advice amid concerns about the rising number of people presenting at Irish hospitals with problems after returning home.
Six Irish citizens have died abroad following medical procedures in the last two years. Some had undergone bariatric (weight-loss) and dental procedures.
“Irish citizens considering medical treatment abroad are advised to carry out independent research regarding the credentials of any potential service provider and to ensure that the facility is accredited with the appropriate authorities in that country,” the DFA said.
“People should also find out what legal actions may be taken in the event that something goes wrong.”
The DFA added that it “cannot provide financial or legal assistance to individuals who experience difficulty following medical, dental or cosmetic treatment abroad”.
Medical-negligence lawyers have warned that people will have “no legal rights in Ireland”.
Avril Scally, solicitor with Lavelle Partners in Dublin, has received an increased number of enquiries where problems have arisen out of surgical treatment abroad, such as infections, severe pain, scarring and prolonged swelling.
“Patients who go abroad leave themselves extremely vulnerable if anything goes wrong,” she told Independent.ie.
“Therefore, they should seriously consider the legal implications if things don’t go as planned. They will have no legal rights in Ireland as they will have to sue the foreign surgeon or clinic in that country.
“It may be difficult to track down the surgeon, their company, or their insurers when they are operating abroad. There will be language barriers, and difficulty in obtaining medical records if they require aftercare in this country.”
Ms Scally said it was vital that people checked that the person or clinic conducting the procedure had appropriate insurance in place to cover any potential negligence.
“If there is no insurance in place, it will be unlikely that a patient will recover any form of compensation if something goes wrong in that foreign country,” she added.
Luke Hanahoe, medical negligence lawyer with Hanahoe & Hanahoe Solicitors in Naas, Co Kildare, said the firm was being contacted “with increasing regularity” by clients who had travelled abroad for medical procedures.
“Often these clients have suffered severe and sometimes life-altering injuries and are seeking our advice on whether they can bring a medical negligence action in Ireland,” he said.
“If you suffer injuries as a result of negligent medical treatment abroad, it is much harder, but by no means impossible, to bring a successful case, than it would have been had you had the procedure in Ireland.
“Turkey appears to be a very popular destination for medical tourism. As Turkey is outside the EU, it will not be possible to bring a case for medical negligence in Ireland; you are going to have to do so in Turkey. Similar reasoning would apply in respect of any other non-EU county. If, however, you had the procedure in an EU member state, it may well be possible to sue in Ireland.”
Mr Hanahoe added that there had been “very little case law” in this area.