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Managing Difficult Cases: The Embarrassed Claimant 2016 - Dr Mark Burgin

22/01/17. Dr Mark Burgin BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP explains how to assess the disabling effects of embarrassment on capacity, consent and vulnerability.

The doctor-patient relationship is unequal. The doctor’s experience of life and illness, social and psychological matters ensures that they are rarely embarrassed by what their patients discuss.

For the patient, the consultation can be an intense experience where, in general they want to be honest and open, but can be overwhelmed when talking about the most personal aspects of their life.

Mental health, sexual issues, social problems, family history and even skin conditions can evoke intense emotions of anger, guilt and particularly embarrassment even years later when in the lawyer’s office.

The doctor can use a number of simple steps to help the patient cope with these emotions from giving the patient the time to speak, making good records so that the conversation can continue another time and information leaflets for the patient to read.

For the lawyer a case where the doctor has failed to manage the patient’s emotions presents them with problems, firstly the same emotions can restrict the claimant from narrating the facts of the case.

Secondly, when assessing whether those emotions led to impaired capacity and restricted the claimant’s ability to give valid consent.

Thirdly, when assessing the extent to which the claimant’s inaction has contributed to the negligence and caused the losses alleged...

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