Can You Make A Personal Injury Claim For A Doctor's Negligence?
Posted on 7th April 2020
Surgery is a common-place occurrence in the medical world, many people have surgeries, whether emergency or planned, complex, or simple. As with anything that is performed on such a large scale, the UK seeing millions of surgical procedures every year, errors do happen. MG Legal, your Medical Negligence Solicitor Garstang, has had a look at the reality of what can go wrong during and after surgery.
A not totally uncommon error is that something is left inside the body after surgery. Many people have heard the horror stories about surgeons dropping their watch or a chain and then sewing it up inside a patient. These are, however, more like folk stories these days and personal items being left inside a patient are unheard of.
So what is left inside patients?
The most common items the personal injury solicitors in our Lancaster office have dealt with for our clients are surgical swabs or sponges, these are used to stem bleeding and so, once thoroughly soaked, easily blend into the background. Much rarer cases, so rare that they usually make national news, include forceps, surgical retractors and needles. Recently, however the personal injury solicitors in our Preston office, accepted instruction from a client who had a drain left in his lungs, when the surgeon believed he had removed the same post-surgery.
What are the consequences?
Sometimes, injured patients can lead a normal life and it is not unheard of for certain items to be found years later on a routine x-ray. More usual, particularly with swabs which can form a favourable environment for infections to grow (after all, swabs have no immune system) is an infection which, if it spreads can cause severe problems including sepsis.
There is, of course, then the additional requirement for surgery to remove the swab or other item and to ensure that nothing else, or new, is left inside the patient the second time around.
Also common, likely because there is so much going on, is for swabs to be left inside Caesarean Section patients, who can then pass on primary and secondary infections to their new child via breast-feeding.
How is this prevented?
Hospitals keep a strict inventory of items used during surgery, which is highly successful as only a fraction of patients are left with items inside them. Items are counted in, as are the sterile packets they come pack inside and the items are then counted out, before the patient is closed up. This, coupled with the fact that surgeons and their teams are highly skilled and extremely well trained, sees millions of patients recover absolutely perfectly following their surgery.
How does the error happen if the system is so good?
Human error is the short answer. With so many surgical procedures taking place every day, with the understaffing and long hours commonplace especially in the NHS and simply through such a complex and demanding procedure, it is not impossible that this type of error can occur.
Why is a genuine error classed as negligence?
Negligence is when your treatment falls below a certain standard. In medical negligence cases the threshold is set as that of a “reasonably competent body of medical opinion”. In other words, if most doctors would not leave a swab inside a body after surgery, the act is negligent. Negligence is not, we would stress, intentional injury, but a mistake or oversight. Much the same that (and we’ve probably all done it) bumping someone else’s car was not done on purpose, it was an accident, but they are still entitled to claim from your insurance for the cost of repairs. MG Legal, your Medical Negligence Solicitor Garstang are not here to vilify any surgeons or to call for them being “struck off” the medical register. However, we know that errors of this type have consequences that are painful, traumatic and which can impact on a variety of aspects of people’s lives.
What happens to the medical practitioner when I make a claim?
Remarkably little happens, the writer once discussed this with a medical practitioner friend and was informed that they are all told the same thing “don’t worry about a claim, it happens to us all”. Much the same as you don’t lose your driving licence for having a bump in your car, no medical practitioner will be struck off or suspended for an error. All medical practitioners are covered through their professional bodies and unions including the NHS, Medical Protection Union and of course, private insurance. They complete a report for their hospital or practice, maybe another one for their union or insurer and then, in the majority of cases, their involvement ends there.
What to do if you are injured as a result of medical negligence?
Contact MG Legal, your Medical Negligence Solicitor Garstang, to discuss your case. We are experienced in dealing with Medical Negligence and we will provide professional but personable representation as we understand it can be difficult to talk to a stranger about medical conditions and procedures.
We will obtain a brief description of the procedure or treatment and the alleged negligence, obtain your medical records and carry out a free-of-charge review of the case as a whole. If we believe you have a viable case, we will then accept your case on a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win, no fee agreement) and proceed with pursuing it against the fault party.
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