Psychological well-being and quality of life in women with potential or suspected Hepatitis C Virus Infection.
Implications for Psychological Assessment in Medical Negligence and Hospital accidents.
Contracting Hepatitis C infection and/or the fear of contracting this can occur following hospital accidents such as a needle stick injuries and medical accidents such as blood transfusion contamination (Irish Blood Transfusion Board 1994 difficulties).
It is now well recognised that both actual contracting and also the fear of this occurring has significant psychological effects on well-being, mental health and quality of life. A recent study by Coughlan etal (2002) in Dublin, Ireland, found that the person’s social functioning was a key explanatory variable of this morbidity and this was unrelated to the level of organic status or disease.
They found a complex relationship between social functioning and psychological distress – it was patients’ relationships’ with other people, which was the most important predictor of the mental health response following diagnosis. They discuss the crucial factors of:
1) Social rejection and stigmatisation
2) Public misconception of why/how hepatitis can be contracted.
3) Embarrassment and social anxiety.
Each of these can interface with a patients’ beliefs about his/her illness.
This study and its wider findings have implications for the conduct of medical negligence and medical accident cases in which blood infection is central, in that the need for careful assessment of psychological and social factors is very important.
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