Let Down by the Medical Profession? Consult a Lawyer Today
Patients have little choice but to put their faith in doctors but, if their trust turns out to be misplaced, lawyers will step in to ensure they are properly compensated. A worrying case on point concerned an elderly woman who was warned neither of the risks of private eye surgery nor that it might bring her little benefit.
The woman was amongst the legion of elderly people who suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). She was excited when told of a newspaper advert that praised the benefits of a new form of surgical lens implant. She attended a private clinic and agreed to pay more than £20,000 for the procedure to be performed on both of her eyes. Although the vision in her left eye was worse than in her right, a decision was taken to operate on the latter first.
Following the operation, she developed glaucoma and raised pressure within her eyeball. The end result was that her optic nerve died and she lost all sight in her right eye. She subsequently launched proceedings against the consultant surgeon who performed the operation.
Ruling on her case, the High Court noted that it was not alleged that the operation was negligently performed, but that it should not have been carried out at all. The clinic's director did not explain to her the risks of surgery beyond the possibility of infection. He did not effectively communicate to her that it might not work or that she could have problems. He merely told her that he was confident he could make her sight better and she believed him.
He did not share with her any of what little research data there was about the risks and limited benefits of the procedure for someone with her level of AMD in both eyes. The surgeon's evidence that he had meticulously explained to her the hazards and possible outcomes of the surgery was rejected. Had she been accurately informed, it was implausible that she would have consented to the operation.
The Court ruled that her informed consent to the operation had therefore not been obtained. It also found that, following the operation, the surgeon failed to provide her with advice, care and surgical treatment to the reasonable standard required. That failure ultimately caused the glaucoma that left her with no perception of light in her right eye. The amount of compensation due to her would be assessed at a further hearing, if not agreed.
Initially, the woman also sought damages from the company that ran the clinic, but that claim was withdrawn after it entered administration. The Court noted that the clinic's director had been struck off by the General Medical Council for putting his financial interests above those of his patients.