There is no such thing as entirely risk-free surgery and, if things go wrong, payment of compensation to those who suffer is not only just but necessary. In one case, a woman who suffered catastrophic damage to her bile duct during a laparoscopic operation received a settlement of her claim worth over £1 million.
Despite complex reconstructive surgery following the operation, the woman suffers from abdominal pain, renal impairment, anaemia and reduced resistance to disease. She became extremely underweight and weak and at one point required antibiotic treatment three times daily. Her day-to-day activities are greatly restricted and her condition triggered psychiatric difficulties, including depression. Her condition is such that she lacks capacity to manage her own affairs.
The case was further complicated by the fact that she formerly acted as carer for her husband, who has cognitive and physical disabilities. After she suffered her injury, he was in no position to reverse their roles and provide her with care. Members of the wider family had, however, commendably stepped in to help deal with a very difficult situation.
After the woman launched clinical negligence proceedings, an NHS trust swiftly admitted liability. Following negotiations, a final settlement of her claim was agreed. Together with a lump sum of £553,750, she will receive index-linked periodical payments of £25,000 a year for the rest of her life. Based on expert assessments of her life expectancy, the capitalised value of the settlement was calculated at £1,021,750. The High Court approved the settlement.