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Doctor loses negligence case following botched brain surgery

A doctor who performed brain surgery to remove a patient's tumour was negligent in his duty of care, according to a recent NSW Supreme Court judgement.

The plaintiff suffered catastrophic complications after the endoscopic operation, which involved the medical practitioner going up through the nasal cavity to take out the tumour.

Following the procedure, the plaintiff has had trouble with his speech, ability to walk, sleep patterns, mood and self-care capabilities.

Why was the surgery approved?

The plaintiff visited his GP with a headache that had been bothering him for several weeks. While the pain was not serious, his doctor referred him for scans, which showed a small tumour that didn't appear to be malignant.

The defendant, a neurosurgeon, suggested proceeding with the surgery due to the fact there was a risk the tumour could cause a stroke or lead to dementia.

According to the defendant, an endoscopy was preferred over a craniotomy – where a portion of skull is removed to access the brain – because it is a cleaner, more modern procedure.

Court decides on medical negligence claim

Justice Monika Schmidt ruled that the doctor was negligent in a number of ways, directly leading to the catastrophic injuries the plaintiff suffered. 

First, the doctor chose a more aggressive treatment than peers would normally accept as standard. A conservative approach would have involved monitoring the tumour over a period of months to see whether the man's symptoms became worse.

Second, Justice Schmidt believed the doctor had failed to adequately inform the patient of the risks of surgery. This operation had a 5-10 per cent chance of leading to the catastrophic injuries that eventually occurred.

Third, the doctor failed to inform the patient that it was the first time he had performed this type of surgery, increasing the odds of a negative outcome.

Pursuing medical negligence compensation

Justice Schmidt ruled in favour of the plaintiff, although the final damages the family will receive are yet to be decided.

However, the parties agreed the plaintiff suffered non-economic losses that were assessed at 33 per cent of a most extreme case. Based on the current maximum award under the Civil Liability Act 2002, the man will receive just over $200,000 for non-economic losses alone.

Damages will also be awarded for medical expenses, lost income, past and future care needs and out-of-pocket expenses.

Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for more information on pursuing a claim.

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Gerard Malouf & Partners
 — Personal Injury Compensation Lawyers

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