Articles and Case Studies

A Call a day Keeps the Lawyers Away

27 Feb 2015

Dr Jane Deacon

by Dr Jane Deacon

This article provides a snapshot of calls received by our Medico-legal Advisory Services team in a day, highlighting some of the medico-legal issues which are of frequent concern to our Members.

A core component of MDA National’s service to Members is access to immediate support, expert guidance and personalised medico-legal advice.


Dr A calls to say she has received a letter from the son of a former patient, requesting a copy of his deceased father’s medical file.

A complex area which depends on several factors, including the reason for the request. Specific advice is given to Dr A, with suggested wording for a letter to be sent to the deceased patient’s son.


Dr B, a junior doctor, has been asked to complete a police report for a patient he saw in ED earlier in the year. He calls seeking advice on how to write the report.

Dr B is given general advice on how to complete a police report, and a brochure with further information is emailed to him. Dr B is also invited to send his report to us for review if he would like further assistance.


A very distressed call from Dr C. He has just been informed by AHPRA that they have received a serious notification alleging that his surgical complication rate is so high he must cease operating. AHPRA is about to fax a letter to him about the notification.

A claims manager is assigned to the matter immediately. The claims manager will start liaising with AHPRA today, and will meet with Dr C as soon as possible.


Time to log off the phones for now, and attend to some paperwork and emails. Dr B’s draft police report has been received; this is now reviewed and sent back to Dr B with some suggested changes included.


Dr D rings to say one of his patients has sent him a very suggestive card, inviting him out for a drink. He is worried about this and not sure how to handle the situation.

After some discussion, Dr D decides it will be best to terminate the doctor-patient relationship. A suitable letter is drafted for Dr D to send to the patient, and he is advised to contact us if there are any developments.


Dr E is very upset as she has damaged a patient’s ureter during surgery this morning. The damage was noted and repaired while the patient was anaesthetised. She is now going to make her post-op rounds and wants advice on what to say to the patient.

Dr E is given advice on how to handle this difficult conversation. She rings back afterwards to say that the patient and family seem to have taken the news of the complication quite well, but she will keep us updated of the patient’s progress.


Dr F, a GP, rings to say that one of his colleague’s nursing home patients has died. His colleague is overseas and Dr F has never seen the patient. The nursing home has just phoned to ask him to complete the death certificate – can he do this?

Advice is given about when a death certificate can be completed, and specific advice is provided to cover this situation.


Dr G phones for advice on responding to a complaint letter from a patient stating that he was rude and did not order the appropriate tests leading to a delay in diagnosis.

However trivial the complaint, we would like to be involved right from the outset. Dr G is asked to send us a copy of the patient’s medical record, the complaint letter and his draft response. A claims manager will be assigned to review the letter and manage the file.


  • Any communication to and from MDA National – such as file notes of discussions, emails and correspondence – should not be recorded in a patient’s medical record.
  • Our Medico-legal Advisory Service can be contacted on 1800 011 255. It operates on weekdays from 8:30am to 8:00pm (AEST), with access to emergency advice 24 hours a day. Members can also use our dedicated email portal:
  • The Medico-legal Advisory Services team receives approximately 350 calls every month from Members. Almost 50% of calls involve notification of an adverse event, a complaint, a coronial or other investigation, a claim or another matter covered under their policy. The remaining calls are requests for general medico-legal advice, as shown in the graph below.


Dr Jane Deacon
Medico-legal Adviser
MDA National


Communication with Patients, Complaints and Adverse Events, Medical Records and Reports, Regulation and Legislation, Anaesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Intensive Care Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Practice Manager Or Owner, Psychiatry, Radiology, Sports Medicine, Surgery


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