Vaccines are being launched in Eire resulting from elevated litigation
All medical interventions in Ireland come against a backdrop of “heightened concern” about potential litigation, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said earlier this week when speaking about the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Whether it is vaccination programs, screening programs or maternity care, it is “particularly the case” in Ireland that medical procedures take place as part of an increased awareness of the possibility of litigation.
This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself as it “helps us take a little more time to make sure everything is just right,” he said on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland.
One of the reasons Ireland may have recourse to the courts more often than other jurisdictions is that legal sources have indicated that we have not established a system of involuntary redress or redress for certain types of medical claims.
Some countries have programs in place to provide assistance to people who claim they have suffered from the administration of certain medicines, including vaccines.
These systems offer an alternative to the very expensive option of going to court.
In a report published earlier this month, a group of experts on the “Law of the Pies and Current Systems for Clinical Negligence Claims Management” advocated the “urgent” establishment of a vaccination compensation system.
There is, according to the group, “a strong moral argument that the state that actively promotes vaccination should take responsibility for those who suffer from it.”
None of this suggests that vaccines are particularly unsafe. It’s just that no medical intervention is completely risk-free.
The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, told the Dáil earlier this month that the government intended to introduce a vaccine compensation system.
The program applies to all vaccination programs such as the annual flu vaccination campaign and not just to the Covid-19 vaccines.
Mr Martin explained that the Covid vaccines Ireland is receiving under the pre-sale agreements negotiated at EU level with its manufacturers include the provision of compensation.
Each EU member state is obliged to “assume the costs of legal assistance and the payment of claims for damages in connection with the administration of the vaccine,” he said.
As with any medical care, vaccines are administered on the basis of “informed consent”. This means that the person receiving the vaccine must be clearly informed by health workers about the benefits and risks associated with the product.
A document prepared by the HSE for the Covid-19 vaccination program sets out how the person receiving the vaccine must also be informed of the risks associated with not taking the vaccine, non-coercive action and the ability to make decisions (even if support is needed).
It is not the case, as can generally be assumed, that for people who are unable to give informed consent, the task is left to their “next of kin”.
In cases where a person is unable to make an informed decision, the decision rests with their healthcare professional, who will make the decision based on a “best interest” principle, including values and preferences of the patient The person should consider what that person would do if they were able to give informed consent, as well as the views of those who have a close relationship with the person.