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Published On: August 8, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

Compensation Obtained Following Glaring Surgical Error

I recently acted for a client who had an operation performed on the wrong side of his body. This was an inexcusable mistake. It was a Never Event. Fortunately, the Defendant swiftly admitted liability in the claim and my client obtained reasonable compensation without the need for protracted litigation.


How did this mistake happen?

My client had an ultrasound scan which identified that he had a femoral hernia. The hernia was on his right-hand side. My client was referred by his GP to an NHS hospital for surgical investigation and treatment of the same. The GP specified in their referral letter that my client was experiencing pain on his right-hand side.

An NHS surgeon rang my client for an initial triage call. At the time of the surgeon’s call, my client was experiencing pain in his left side. When he told the surgeon this, the surgeon immediately assumed that my client’s hernia was also on his left.

The surgeon failed to consider that, on this particular day, my client might be experiencing pain on a different side of his body from the side his hernia was on.

Instead of making any further checks, the surgeon referred my client for an operation on his left-hand side.

My client proceeded to undergo surgery on the wrong side of his body. The surgeons were unsurprisingly unable to find the hernia and it remained untreated.

My client suffered with continued pain from the hernia and he would require a repeat surgery in the future.


How could this all have been avoided?

If the surgeon had been in any doubt about the location of my client’s hernia they could have contacted his GP to check the contents of the referral letter.

They also could have viewed a copy of the hernia ultrasound report themselves using medical records software that was freely available to them.

Either step would have been quick and easy, and without doubt, would have confirmed that my client’s hernia was on his right and not his left.

Unfortunately, the surgeon negligently failed to take either step. Instead, they decided to act on the unreasonable assumption that my client’s GP had made a mistake. This set in chain a course of events that resulted in my client undergoing an invasive surgery on the wrong side of his body and suffering avoidable harm.

It is to be hoped that the surgeon and their NHS Trust have learned from this mistake. Without question, where simple checks can be performed to resolve any doubts or confusion in referrals for surgeries, they should be.

In particular, medical records must be checked if there is ever any question over where exactly on a patient’s body a proposed surgery should take place.

Unfortunately, this is not the only case I have worked on where a mistake has been made because doctors have neglected to use freely available electronic platforms to review their patients’ medical records.

It is to be hoped that over the coming years technology and practice will improve so that these platforms are more widely used and more mistakes (like the one my client fell victim to) are avoided.


Bringing a claim

It is a fact of life that people sometimes make mistakes, but there are some errors that are so inexcusable and potentially life-threatening that they should simply never happen.

If you think you or a family member may have suffered life-changing injuries as a result of such a mistake, contact our specialist team for an initial chat as to whether there may be a good reason to make a claim for compensation.

* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*

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