Infected mesh results in $1 million payout for medical negligence

Date: Jul 31, 2017

A woman has been awarded more than $1 million in damages after negligent treatment she received for an incisional hernia at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital.

The plaintiff developed a severe infection from a surgical mesh that was placed inside her abdomen to promote healing and provide support for the wound.

She claimed the hospital was negligent on three counts:

  1. Failing to use negative pressure surgical drains during an operation with a high risk of infection;
  2. Failing to spot the infection during a follow-up procedure; and
  3. Again failing to identify the infection on a third occasion when further treatment was sought.

The infection caused significant damage to the woman’s abdomen, which required numerous surgeries that have left her with severe scarring and chronic pain. The plaintiff’s counsel also argued that multiple surgeries have led to the plaintiff developing substantial back pain.

Was the hospital negligent?

Several medical witnesses were called as experts in the case, and they almost unanimously agreed that the use of negative pressure surgical drains was necessary for the operation.

The location of the hernia, as well as the fact the plaintiff was obese and a smoker, meant there was a higher-than-unusual risk of infection. One doctor described the case as a “nightmare”, whereby an infection was “on the cards right at the outset”.

As such, the woman’s medical practitioners fell well below the standards of care expected from the profession.

The third count was also upheld. The infection had spread to such an extent that a doctor should have spotted the danger and approved drastic measures, such as removing the mesh and prescribing a long course of antibiotics.

The second count failed, however, due to the fact the infection was not noticeable during a routine follow-up soon after the original surgery.

Woman receives million-dollar payout

Justice Stephen Campbell awarded the woman just over $1 million in compensation, which comprised:

  • $230,000 for non-economic losses;
  • $10,000 for past out-of-pocket expenses;
  • $30,000 for future out-of-pocket costs;
  • Nearly $550,000 for past and future economic losses; and
  • More than $160,000 in past and future care costs.

“Had the negligence by omitting to use surgical drains not occurred, the incisional hernia repair undergone by [the plaintiff] would have been successful and curative of the condition treated, namely the hernia and the disabilities it caused,” Justice Campbell explained.

“After a period of convalescence she would have gone on to lead a normal unrestricted life.”

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