There is rarely any justifiable defence against a claim for compensation for wrong site surgery. Wrong site surgery is considered to be a “never event”, which means that – with proper safety measures being followed before and during a surgical procedure – there should be no reason for surgery to be conducted on the wrong part of a patient´s body.
Yet hundreds of patients suffer an avoidable injury due to wrong site surgery every year – and it is not always the surgeon who is at fault. Mistakes by non-medical staff (administrators and technicians) can account for many surgical errors and, when surgery is conducted on the wrong part of a patient´s body, the fault could lay with a member of the medical support team who has misguided the surgeon.
To reduce the risk of patients claiming compensation for wrong site surgery, the NHS National Patient Safety Agency has produced a checklist that has to be completed at various stages of each surgical procedure conducted in hospitals in England and Wales. This checklist includes:
- Confirming the identity of the patient
- Confirming the site and the procedure that is to be conducted
- Confirming any known existing conditions that may lead to complications
- Confirming the sterility of instruments and equipment
- After surgery, accounting for instruments, swabs and sharps
Despite these safeguards, wrong site surgery and errors during surgery still occur. If you can identify with any of the scenarios below – or have suffered an avoidable loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to medical negligence during a surgical procedure – you are invited to contact our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau to discuss your avoidable injury with a medical negligence solicitor.
Claims for the Amputation of the Wrong Body Part
Claims for the amputation of the wrong body part occur much more frequently than you may imagine. The amputation of the wrong, finger, hand or arm can be attributable to a medical practitioner looking at an image in reverse and confusing left with right; while the same mistake can cause the amputation of the wrong toe, foot or leg.
Claims for the amputation for the wrong body part should take into account that patients will still have to undergo further surgery to have the correct body part removed. As well as experiencing a greater degree of physical incapacity due to medical negligence during a surgical procedure, the patient will also likely suffer some degree of avoidable psychological trauma.
Compensation for the Removal of the Wrong Organ
Settlements of compensation for the removal of the wrong organ have to take into account the consequences that the medical negligence during a surgical procedure has on a patient. Whereas it may be possible to replace a kidney that has been removed in error, the option of a replacement organ may not be viable if it is the wrong eye that has been removed.
There have been several claims for compensation for wrong site surgery when the wrong ovary has been removed. As well as the implications for leaving a diseased or damaged ovary in place, the removal of the wrong ovary means that women will be unable to have children in the future and – when the damage ovary is removed – be at an increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Claim for Surgery on the Wrong Body Part
A claim for surgery on the wrong body part can vary in significance from having the wrong tooth removed to undergoing a surgical procedure on the wrong disc which results in permanent paralysis. Whereas having the wrong tooth removed can be rectified with an implant, there is rarely any remedial treatment that can be provided for a patient with spinal nerve damage.
In addition to the NHS checklist mentioned above, a skilled surgeon may realise that an error has been made when he or she comes to operate on a body part. However, in the event of a biopsy being taken on the wrong body part, the error may not be so apparent, and a diagnosis of cancer may be missed due to medical negligence during a surgical procedure.
Compensation Claims for Surgery on the Wrong Patient
Claims for compensation for wrong site surgery are not exclusive to patients who have experienced the amputation of the wrong body part, the removal of the wrong organ or surgery on the wrong body part. Sometimes errors occur due to patient notes being mixed up and a procedure being conducted on the wrong patient.
Compensation claims for surgery on the wrong patient are more likely attributable to an administrative error, but they can also be due to two patients with the same name being confused by nursing staff or due to a doctor turning up at the wrong address on a home visit. Irrespective of how medical negligence during a surgical procedure occurred, you should always speak with a medical negligence solicitor at the first practical opportunity.
Claiming Compensation for Wrong Site Surgery
The procedure for claiming compensation for wrong site surgery begins with your solicitor engaging the services of a medical expert, who will establish how medical negligence during a surgical procedure occurred. Unfortunately, although the fact that a terrible error has occurred should be sufficient to justify compensation for wrong site surgery, it also has to be determined where in the process the error was made.
Once evidence of medical negligence during a surgical procedure has been established, your solicitor will send a “Letter of Claim” to the practise or NHS authority responsible for the standard of care at the venue where you underwent surgery. The practise or NHS authority has ninety days to conduct its own investigation and acknowledge responsibility for your injury (as mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is no justifiable defence against a claim for compensation for wrong site surgery).
Once liability has been admitted, your solicitor will negotiate a settlement of compensation for wrong site surgery to account for your pain and suffering, for any quantifiable psychological trauma that has been diagnosed, and for the impact that the medical negligence during a surgical procedure has had on your quality of life. You will also be able to recover any financial costs you have incurred, or may incur in the future, due to medical negligence during a surgical procedure.
Further Information about Medical Negligence during a Surgical Procedure
No two claims for medical negligence during a surgical procedure are the same, even when you have suffered the exact same injury as another patient. The physical and emotional consequences of medical negligence during a surgical procedure affect different people in different ways, and for this reason it is recommended that you contact our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau and discuss your specific situation with a medical negligence solicitor.
Our solicitor will be able to answer any legal questions you may have about claiming compensation for wrong site surgery and explain your options to you in plain English. Naturally, all calls to our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau are confidential and – by using our service – you are under no obligation to proceed with a compensation claim for medical negligence during a surgical procedure.