Medical Negligence – Paralysis following sinus surgery

In the days following a simple sinus surgery, Melbournite Daniel Hogan started to develop flu-like symptoms. His surgeon reassured Mr Hogan that the symptoms would eventually pass, but what happened next changed his life forever.

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Before the operation, Daniel Hogan was an avid exerciser. He would run almost every night and practiced yoga regularly. Now, the 38-year-old is partially quadriplegic; having developed meningitis from complications arising from sinus surgery.

According to a statement filed in the Supreme Court, Mr Hogan telephoned his surgeon Ron Trower two days after being discharged from a Melbourne Hospital. The surgeon reassured him that the flu-like symptoms were probably just a virus.

Several days passed as Mr Hogan’s condition deteriorated dramatically. He was eventually taken to the emergency room and their surgeons found a defect in his nasal cavity that had allowed the cerebrospinal fluid to leak, causing meningitis.

Mr Hogan has since been left permanently disabled form the neck down.

He finds it difficult to walk 100 metres, has zero sexual function, and is forced to use a catheter to drain his bowels.

The question remained, was it anyone’s fault?

THE CASE

Mr Hogan has recently decided to sue his surgeon for failing to provide proper care following the surgery. Mr Trower and the Royal Melbourne Hospital have denied any negligence in their treatment of Mr Hogan, but some law experts believe that along with the future lose of earnings, cost of medical treatment, household assistance and damages for pain and suffering, a compensation figure of $2million could be reached.

If not settled through mediation, the case is set for trial in November.

WHAT IS MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE?

Hospitals, doctors and health care providers have a duty to take proper care when treating patients. If a patient were to suffer injury that came as a direct result of inadequate skill or care then the patient (or family) may be able to make a claim for financial compensation.

Medical negligence claims are also extremely complex. Not every outcome results in a claim and it’s crucial to demonstrate a connection between the error and negative outcome.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN?

A tragedy like Mr Hogan’s has reinforced the principles that medical practitioners have a duty to warn their patients of all risks involved. Extra care must be taken by both doctors and hospitals to ensure our sick receive the best possible care that’s available.

THINK YOU HAVE A NEGLIGENCE CLAIM?

Then contact a lawyer.

It’s important you speak with someone who has experience in medical negligence as the cases are extremely complex. Time limits also apply in these types of scenarios, so early investigations are essential.

Head to our homepage if you’re seeking further legal advice.

 

 

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Failure to Warn: A recent case of medical negligence

What duty does a doctor have when warning their patients about possible medical risks?

A recent case has made law-makers question what is required by our doctors and what grounds patients have to claim.

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What happens when it all goes wrong? Image via Shutterstock

WHAT IS MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE?

Hospitals, doctors and health care providers have a duty to take proper care when treating patients. If a patient were to suffer injury that came as a direct result of inadequate skill or care then the patient (or family) may be able to make a claim for financial compensation.

Medical negligence claims are also extremely complex. Not every outcome results in a claim and it’s crucial to demonstrate a connection between the error and negative outcome.

THE CASE

When Ian Wallace underwent a surgical procedure involving his lumbar spine, there were two risks Mr Wallace never got told about. These were:

1. A temporary local damage to the nerves (Neurapraxia) caused by lying face down on the operating table for a lengthy period; and

2. A one-in-20 chance of permanent paralysis which would result in damage to his spinal nerve.

When the procedure was unsuccessful and Mr Wallace did in-fact suffer Neurapraxia, Mr Wallace attempted to sue his surgeon for negligence. The court found that Mr Wallace’s doctor failed to provide sufficient warning but the claim failed because Wallace would still have undergone the surgical procedure despite the risks. It was found that there was no causal connection between the failure to warn and Wallace’s Neurapraxia. The trial judge declined to make any findings in relation to the surgeon’s failure to warn of the surgery’s risk of paralysis, and about whether or not Mr Wallace would have gone through with the procedure if he had known of this risk, on the basis that this wasn’t relevant since the risk did not materialise.

 IMPLICATIONS

This decision reinforced the principles that medical practitioners have a duty to warn a patient of all material risks involved but in order for a medical practitioner to be held liable, the patient (and plaintiff) must prove the breach was causative of the harm that eventuated.

THINK YOU HAVE A NEGLIGENCE CLAIM?

Then contact a lawyer. It’s important that you communicate with someone who has experience in medical negligence cases as they are extremely complex. Time limits also apply so early investigations are essential.