Treatment injury

Key points about treatment injury

  • A treatment injury is an injury caused to someone seeking or receiving treatment from a registered health professional.
  • It's generally a physical injury caused at any time during the treatment process.
  • Most are easily fixed and unlikely to have a lasting impact, but some may be more serious.
  • This page provides information about what you can do if you experience a treatment injury. 
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A treatment injury is an injury caused to someone seeking or receiving treatment from a registered health professional. 

The range of treatment injuries is very wide and is caused by a mishap any time during your treatment process, such as through: 

  • a missed or incorrect diagnosis
  • a decision that the treatment be provided or not provided
  • failure to provide treatment at all or in a timely manner
  • obtaining or failing to obtain consent
  • an adverse reaction to medicines
  • equipment failure.

Examples of treatment injuries could include:

  • a wound infection following surgery
  • a missed cancer diagnosis,
  • being given the wrong medicine (or dose) causing an injury.

Most injuries are easily remedied and are unlikely to have a lasting impact. However, some may be more serious and lead to you not being able to do your regular activities or work. 

Treatment injuries occur in many settings, eg, in hospitals (both public and private), in general practice and in residential care facilities. Health care associated infections are the most common form of patient harm.

Treatment injuries are more likely to happen in the hospital setting – probably because people admitted to hospital tend to be sicker, and treatment often includes the use of invasive devices and procedures that carry a higher risk of harm. Also, some facilities provide complex medical and surgical treatments, eg, cancer management, brain and spine surgery, heart surgery, treatment for severe burns and advanced services in medical care of newborn infants.

If you think you have an injury caused by a treatment you have had, talk to your healthcare provider. They are there to make sure your care is as safe as possible. They can help you resolve the problem. If not, you can make a complaint. Also, if needed, your healthcare provider can lodge a claim on your behalf for further treatment. See claims below. 

 Woman talking to doctor about complaint

Image credit: Canva


If you're not happy with an experience with a health or disability service, you can follow these steps. You may not need to do them all.

Try to sort it out yourself 

Contact your healthcare provider and discuss your situation with them. If you don't feel comfortable speaking to the person who treated you, you could write a letter or take a support person with you. You could also talk about your issue with their manager or complaints officer. Read more about self advocacy(external link)

Get support from the Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Service

The Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Service can give you information on your rights when using health or disability services and your options for making a complaint. You can contact a health and disability advocate by calling 0800 555 050 or by emailing Read more about the Code of Health and Disability Consumer Rights. 

Complain to the Health and Disability Commissioner

You can make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner about:

  • a regulated service, eg, doctor, dentist, physiotherapist
  • an unregulated service, eg, aromatherapist, counsellor, reflexologist, or
  • a disability service, eg, respite care or a support worker in your home.

Your complaint might relate to public or private services, a person, an organisation, voluntary or paid. The Health and Disability Commissioner might order the healthcare provider to apologise, review their systems and complete special training.

If you're not sure what to do ring 0800 555 050 and an advocate will help you. Learn more about making a complaint(external link).


In Aotearoa New Zealand everyone is covered by ACC if they've been injured in an accident. If the injury resulted from getting treatment, ACC covers it if:

  • the treatment directly caused your injury
  • a registered health professional was treating you
  • it’s not a normal side effect of your treatment.

ACC also covers injuries caused by treatment for an injury they've already covered. Your healthcare provider can lodge a claim on your behalf if they think you have a treatment injury. There are instances where treatment injuries may not be covered, eg, when an injury is an ordinary consequence of a treatment. For information specific to your situation, talk to your healthcare provider. Learn more about lodging a treatment injury claim(external link).

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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