Ah, beautiful, dreamy, wonderful Ecuador. Amid all the enchanting scenery, wildlife, mountains, beaches and culture to write home about, one might also ask: what’s to be done when “life happens?”, when one’s seemingly “amable” (the Spanish word for “friendly”) Ecuadorian doctor turns a routine procedure into a medical nightmare?
As an Ecuadorian lawyer, I am informed of situations in which doctors’ lack of competence results in poor/missed diagnoses, surgical errors or drug dosage errors — some of which, in extreme cases, can lead to paralysis or even death.
Naturally, an expat can’t prepare for everything that might come to pass in Ecuador, but in response to such a medical challenge, an expat can, in fact, do something about it. There are options ranging from requesting a formal apology from the doctor at fault, to free care for recovery. Often, a judge is able to make a ruling on a case like this within six months, and without any need for the expat to speak, write or testify in Spanish. Article 2235 of the Ecuadorian Civil Code (which mandates the relative simplicity of this process) applies to expats universally, regardless of whether the expat currently lives in Ecuador or has elected to returned to their home country, or wherever they feel that they can receive the best medical care. The statute of limitations on filing a medical malpractice claim in Ecuador under the Ecuadorian Civil Code is four years.
In closing, it is truly my hope that by writing this article, expats will take it upon themselves to choose their doctors, dentists, and clinics very carefully, so that they may receive an “American Standard of Care” (or better) here in Ecuador. It’s also very important to make sure that the staff at the medical or dental clinic can speak a reasonable communicative level of English, or that you hire a translator, so that nothing is misconstrued. Ensure that clinic staff don’t brush aside any questions that you have about your own medical or dental situation and any procedure(s) that you are electing to have performed by them. And finally, if all else fails, expats as either residents or non-residents have all the same medical rights that any native Ecuadorian has, including to be able to protect themselves through legal means (solely in English at that if need be).