In a recent medical negligence case heard before the NSW Supreme Court, a man claimed damages from a medical practitioner after suffering irreparable injuries following an operation to repair a hernia.
The plaintiff had required the surgery urgently after suffering a debilitating hernia at the age of 17.
The defendant in the case performed the operation but when the plaintiff awoke from the anaesthetic afterwards, the pain he experienced was so severe that he was not able to raise himself from bed.
The slightest movement brought sharp shocks of pain and there was a tingling sensation down the inside of his right thigh.
The plaintiff spent the next three weeks in bed and on pain medication. At this stage it was unclear whether this was a normal reaction to the surgery or the result of an abnormality in the procedure.
Gradually, however, it emerged that the plaintiff’s experience did not track with the normal recovery expected after this type of operation.
The ongoing pain and suffering significantly affected his ability to hold down a job or to continue following the course of study he had commenced prior to his surgery.
In the years following the surgery and a follow-up exploratory procedure to try and find the cause of the pain, the plaintiff endured a number of disabilities.
These included chronic severe pain, muscle cramps, a restricted range of movement, difficulty lifting and carrying, difficulty sitting for prolonged periods, depression, confidence loss and a diminished ability at concentrating.
Based on the evidence of medical professionals provided to the court, it was established that the plaintiff’s post-operative injuries stemmed from the placement of a staple meant to bind mesh to tissue.
This staple entrapped one or more nerves, with the result being that the plaintiff became grossly incapacitated following the procedure.
It was determined that the placement of this staple “departed from accepted surgical practice” and that an opportunity was further missed to intervene in a timely manner and remove it when it was feasible to do so.
The judge ruled in favour of the plaintiff, and ordered that the defendant pay him the sum of $1.1 million.
This total included $26,000 for general demages; $360,870 for past economic loss; $545,913 on future economic loss; $23,400 for past domestic assistance; and $56,292 for future domestic assistance.