A few days ago we reported how we had heard rumours that clinics were asking women to sign legal waivers preventing them from pursuing a claim for PIP compensation. At the time we hoped that the rumours were unfounded as it was difficult to see how any clinic would feel it was appropriate to do so. Unfortunately it would appear that these rumours are true as The Telegraph are reporting that The Hospital Group are asking women to sign just such a waiver.
The Hospital Group are offering to remove PIP implants to patients who received them from the clinic between 2001 and 2009. Implant replacement is then offered for subsidised price of £1,500. What is not clear however is that patients will be asked to sign a "Patient Agreement Form" waiving their right to bring a claim against the Hospital Group and barring the client from talking to the press about their treatment.
The form states "I agree that my acceptance of such service shall stand in full and final settlement of any claims whatsoever. Upon acceptance of such service I agree to discontinue any or all actions I may have, or as may be, commenced against THMG [The Hospital Medical Group] and/or the surgeons in relation to my PIP implant surgery, and to indemnify them in respect of the same, and to waive all further rights generally and specifically in relation to the bringing of any legal actions in relation to my PIP implant surgery."
Patients are describing the deal offered as "blackmail" and are having to face the tough decision of whether or not to sign on the dotted line or pay full price for surgery elsewhere.
Although the Hospital Group declined to comment the Department of Health stated "No responsible healthcare provider should be asking patients to waive any rights. All patients who undertake any kind of surgery should be confident that they are going to be looked after if anything goes wrong."
Sam Robson, partner at Slee Blackwell Solicitors and leader of the cosmetic surgery claims team says "There are strong arguments that such a contract is unenforceable as it has been signed under duress but I have to say I find it unbelievable that at a time when the clinics really need good PR they try something like this. The Health Secretary has stated that he believes the clinics have a moral duty to deal with PIP scandal victims. Hearing something like this makes you wonder if it's being a bit naive to expect the clinics to have any morals at all."
"If patients are being asked to sign any documents prior to surgery that they do not fully understand or which they feel uncomfortable with then I would ask that they contact me before signing and send me a copy of the contract. I can then have a look at it and let them know exactly what the situation is. Contracts can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 01392 494773. If the clinics have nothing to hide then I see no reason why they shouldn't be happy to send these documents over to me themselves."