David Tench, solicitor and consumer rights champion, who died last month, was remembered on Radio 4's Last Word today, along with four other people. I well remember That's Life, the TV consumer programme from the 70s, for which he worked as legal expert. Until hearing Last Word today, I had not realised that it is David Tench to whom we should all be very grateful for pushing through the Unfair Contract Terms Act of 1977 and the Consumer Protection Act 1987. (See the obituary in the Independent for further details of his life and work.)
We need another such campaigning, public-spirited solicitor/patient rights champion today, to work to reform the appallingly unjust, unfair laws that obtain with regard to medical and surgical treatment both by the NHS and by private healthcare providers. As things are, when patients are harmed by health professionals, they and their families find that the professionals who have harmed them are almost wholly safe from punishment. They are, to all intents and purposes, above the Law. Complaints Procedures are futile and civil court cases are ruinously expensive for the victims who have to pay court costs and wait weary, costly years to get to court at all, if they can manage to stay alive that long.
We need to reduce the terrible toll of suffering and cost that this unaccountability of the medical profession results in. To do that, we need a Law of Contract to apply to doctors and their patients/victims. A law that is not written in such complicated language that lay people cannot understand it, and does not contain terms that are unfair to the patient. We need some lawyers who are on the side of the patients to have a hand in drafting all legal stuff to make sure it protects patients. As it is, there is, effectively, no protection whatsoever for patients against negligent or even deliberately malicious treatment from health professionals. I speak from personal experience on this matter. - Read Fighting the System, which is my online account of my experience. I also wrote a Short Story about this, called Long in the Toothache.