To a certain degree, the evolution of surgery in Ireland has given rise to an increase in documented cases of surgical negligence.

Procedures thought impossible at one point are quickly made to seem routine. Technology and medicine progress side by side and, as significant advancements are made in fields like robotic surgery and telesurgery, the scope for impactful, surgical care grows ever broader.

Unfortunately, while improvements in technology can reduce the risks involved in different forms of surgery, new, more complex and daring procedures can also carry with them their own risks.

Medical negligence continues to be a major issue in Irish healthcare. Last year, the Irish Times reported that, across 2020, the State paid out a total of almost €315 million in damages in settlements for cases of medical negligence.

Hughes & Associates Medical Negligence Solicitors operate out of Dublin and can provide advice and assessments on all cases of medical negligence, including incidents revolving around surgical malpractice. Talk to us about your case by emailing info@hughessolicitors.ie or phoning +353 1 891 0020.

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What is Surgical Negligence?

Surgical negligence occurs when a surgery is not performed to an acceptable standard, either due error or a substandard level of professional skill, and the result is a direct, negative impact on a patient’s condition.

Patients are legally entitled to expect a certain standard of care when they undergo surgery. If their surgeon fails to meet that standard, there may be grounds for a surgical negligence case.

Cases of surgical negligence can be hugely impactful. Not only can errors in surgery leave a patient experiencing intense, unnecessary pain – in some cases, surgical malpractice can have severe implications on a person’s long-term standard of life.

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How to Prove Surgical Negligence in Ireland

In all Irish cases of medical negligence, the basis for any compensation claim relies on proving:

  • The existence of a prior relationship between the patient and the practitioner, in this case a surgeon.
  • The injury or damage that was suffered was the direct result of the surgeon’s negligence.

As soon as those facts are established, a solicitor can go about sourcing an independent third-party to conduct an independent medical review of your treatment.

A decision can then be made, on the balance of probability, as to whether the surgeon’s actions were unreasonable enough to constitute surgical negligence.

Can family members give medical consent on your behalf?

Family members do not have a legal right to give or withhold consent for any form of treatment, although they can sometimes be consulted by a practitioner.

The exception to this is with children – parents or guardians are consulted ahead of surgeries for children under the age of sixteen, although, in Ireland, the child’s own view is also often taken into account.

Children aged sixteen and above may grant informed consent themselves to any surgical procedure they undergo, without the consent of a parent or guardian.

What Happens if Surgery is Carried Out Without Informed Consent?

If avoidable complications arise as a result of an improper surgery, and the patient was not properly informed on the potential risks that went with their procedure, there may be the basis for an informed consent surgical negligence claim.

Because of the implications associated with refusing treatment for a major ailment, it can be difficult to prove that you would not have gone ahead with your surgery had you been fully aware of its potential drawbacks.

Still, with the likes of cosmetic surgery, where the procedure is entirely elective, it can happen that an unanticipated side effect presents a significant impairment for the patient. In that instance, if informed consent was not given, surgical negligence may have occurred.

There may also be situations in which a surgeon is more confident in surgery as the best course of action, even though another, more conservative treatment plan may actually be more appropriate.

Laser treatment, for instance, has made major strides in recent years and can present fewer risks than a surgical procedure with a similar purpose.

Common Types of Surgery

Surgical negligence can occur across all forms of surgery but some of the more common procedures that can present grounds for a negligence claim include:

  • Caesarean sections, or caesarean deliveries, in childbirth.
  • Heart surgeries including coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), heart valve repairs and heart transplants.
  • Other organ replacement surgeries including kidney, liver, lung and pancreas transplants.
  • Bariatric surgeries including gastric bypasses and other procedures designed to induce weight-loss.
  • Joint replacement surgeries, or joint replacement arthroplasty, including total knee and hip replacements.
  • Brain surgeries including craniotomies designed to remove tumours, biopsies and cerebral aneurism repairs.
  • Various orthopaedic surgeries including bone tumour surgery and rheumatoid surgery.

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Examples of Surgical Negligence

Generally speaking, any error in surgery is at risk of forming the basis for a surgical negligence case. Mistakes or malpractice can happen in a wide range of settings, and if you feel as though you have been the victim of medical negligence, feel free to get in touch with Hughes & Associates for a full assessment of your case.

To give an idea of some of the more common cases of surgical negligence, below is a list of examples:

  • The surgeon makes an incision in the wrong area.
  • An infection occurs post-operation.
  • Sepsis occurring off the back of an infection.
  • An accident occurs mid-surgery, for instance a scalpel injury.
  • The surgeon does not assess laboratory results correctly.
  • Too much or too little anaesthesia is administered.
  • A nearby muscle is damaged during surgery.
  • Perforation and tears resulting from mishandled surgical procedures.
  • The surgeon mistakenly leaves a foreign object inside the body.
  • The surgeon fails to obtain the correct blood type.
  • Post-operation care is substandard and exacerbates the injury.

Claiming for Surgical Negligence in Ireland

If you feel you are the victim of surgical negligence, or that your health suffered as a result of negligence on the part of a medical professional, it may be helpful to get in touch with an experienced solicitor in order to have your case assessed.

At Hughes & Associates Solicitors, we offer specialist knowledge in cases of surgical negligence, and we can assess your case for compensation with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Based in Dublin and serving Irish claimants, we are available for enquiries via email at info@hughessolicitors.ie or by phoning us on +353 1 891 0020.

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