I was invited this morning by BBC Wiltshire radio (their breakfast programme) to give my views on the shocking case of a man in Wiltshire who had the wrong testicle removed by mistake by Salisbury District Hospital.
The full interview can be heard here:
As you can imagine, the Hospital Trust will have no defence to his clinical negligence claim. This mistake should not have happened and is currently described by the NHS as a “never event”.
In my experience, hospitals have a number of procedures/protocols in place to ensure that the right organs or body parts are removed. Liability will not be disputed and the only issue in this case is the amount of compensation payable to this unfortunate man.
I explained to the listeners of BBC Wiltshire how damages were assessed in these type of cases. As well as compensation for the physical pain, suffering and loss of amenity this negligence has caused, he is also able to recover compensation for the psychological damage which he will now have to endure. I am sure that this episode has not helped his underlying condition of cancer.
In addition, he is also entitled to recover his reasonable expenses arising from this negligence. This could include, for example, the cost of future fertility treatment if he and his spouse/partner were minded to have any more children.
These type of mistakes in practice are very rare. In the majority of cases, it is unclear at the outset on whether there has been any negligent treatment. It is for this reason I always advise patients to go through the NHS complaints process first to see what the hospital or GP have to say about the treatment in question. Sometimes they are able to explain why things may have gone wrong. If a patient is still dissatisfied with their response, then they should seek advice from a solicitor who specialises in these type of cases to investigate the merits of their case.
On a separate note, as from the 1 April 2013, the law is dramatically changing so that the victims of sub-standard care will no longer be able to recover all their costs and expenses from the NHS in the event of them winning their case (find out how cases can be funded after the deadline). A proportion of their costs/ expenses will now have to be paid by them in any event from their damages. It is therefore important that anyone who is unhappy with their medical treatment seeks advice from a lawyer well before the April 2013 deadline.