Mistakes made during surgery can leave you with long-lasting pain and severely diminish the quality of your life. If you have suffered as a result of surgical negligence, you may be eligible to make a claim for compensation. *
The following information is provided to help you ascertain scenarios where a claim for surgical negligence may need to be investigated.
Obviously, there are known risks associated with every procedure, and therefore, ensuring that the appropriate consent was obtained in the first place is very important. With that said, cases based on alleged lack of informed consent cases are generally very difficult to prove unless you can satisfy a judge convincingly that the person wouldn’t have undergone the procedure having been made aware of the balance of risks involved. Most surgeries are completely necessary and unavoidable, and few rational people would actually decide not to proceed in the face of a small risk of complication versus a far greater risk posed by the medical condition which has made the surgery necessary in the first place.
Where the question of informed consent can become more of an issue is in the context of completely elective surgery, such as cosmetic surgery or something like that, and if you can say, “Well, look. I would never have had this completely unnecessary procedure carried out if I had known that I was going to have chronic pain afterwards.” But, in most cases where the surgery or procedure is actually clinically indicated, satisfying a court that you wouldn’t have proceeded anyway if you had properly consented will prove difficult, unless the risk is very real. Furthermore, independent surgical medical opinion may well take the view that a surgeon should not have recommended surgery if the risk of complication outweighed the potential benefits from the procedure, and indeed that the circumstances were such that they did not do so.
What does arise is the situation whereby surgery might have been chosen as a route, but there may have been a less invasive procedure available. There are a lot of injuries where surgeons are anxious to proceed, because they are trained surgeons and they believe in surgery as the best mode of treatment, where there may be more conservative treatments available, such as laser treatment, et cetera. In the case of a shoulder and knee injury for instance, laser treatment has been seen to be effective and is much less invasive than surgery. These procedures can take longer and they may not be as tried and trusted but nevertheless if there are appropriate medical alternatives a patient should at least have the option of considering them.
Therefore, if you have a situation where complications arise out of a surgery, which could have been avoided, and the client wasn’t given a full range of options before deciding whether to proceed, then there could well be circumstances given rise to a claim that should be investigated.
Negligence in the Performance of Surgery
Apart from the question of informed consent, there is then the actual performance of the surgery itself. Examples of negligence in this context would include joint replacements (including hip and knee replacements) where the components aren’t put in at the right alignment, resulting in dislocation or instability. You can have situations where instrumentation is being inserted and screws or other fixatives can perforate the bone, or cause damage to other nearby organs.
Also the failure to pick up on and diagnose infection can arise commonly in this context. Infection is a known risk associated with surgery, and the fact that an infection occurs, of itself would not give rise to an action. But, if an infection isn’t picked up on quickly and treated properly, you have the possibility of avoidable sepsis occurring. Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of surgery which may arise particularly where there is a substandard technique used or a substandard system of aftercare provided, and which otherwise could and should have been avoided.
Sepsis is an increasingly common complication and appears to be on the increase. It is really a question of identifying it properly and dealing with it in a timely fashion, because the longer it runs on, the greater the risk of a serious injury resulting in an amputation of upper body or lower body limbs or even death.
Perforations and tears in the context of surgical procedures can often result from medical negligence in this area. For example, a perforated bowel can result from the use of screws that are too long in spinal surgery. In gynaecological surgeries, you can have damage to the urethra, for instance, a nick of the urethra in the course of a hysterectomy.
Aside from surgery arising in a hospital context, you can also have instances of negligence arising in the course of minor surgery by GPs. For instance, certain contraceptive devices, ones comprising a small metal rod are inserted into the upper arm of a woman by a GP in the local surgery. It’s also removed under local anaesthetic by the GP.
Complications can arise in the course of this procedure which could require referral to a plastic surgeon. Failure to do so could result in nerve damage and scarring that could otherwise be avoided.
The failure in an emergency setting to properly diagnose and refer in the case of lacerations that may require plastic surgery can also give rise to instances of negligence. For instance, if a person were to attend at an A&E with a laceration following a fall or other accident and was just sent home because there was no plastic surgery unit at the hospital when they should have referred her to the closest hospital with a plastic surgery facility, this can result in delayed healing and markedly inferior outcomes, perhaps resulting in follow-up treatments that might otherwise be avoided, nerve damage involving chronic pain, scarring and serious disfigurement, whereas if the laceration had been properly cleaned and sutured by a plastic surgeon on the first occasion, all of that could be avoided.
About McCarthy + Co
With more than 30 years of experience in dealing with surgical negligence claims *, McCarthy + Co. has expertise in a wide variety of fields relating to medical negligence and personal injury. We are a family-run business, who pride ourselves on offering honest, impartial and helpful advice.
Our offices are based in Dublin and Cork but we have worked with clients throughout Ireland in locations ranging from Galway to Waterford. You can count on us for legal advice, guidance and assistance on any form of personal injury including fracture compensation claims *.
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to experience surgical negligence, get in contact with our medical negligence solicitors today to make a start on your claim *. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.