A teenager who was forced to have a portion of his thumb amputated at 8 years old has successfully proven that his medical practitioners breached their duty of care.
In 2011, the plaintiff suffered a severe complex crushing injury to his left thumb and a less serious injury to his middle finger while playing outside. He was subsequently taken to hospital where the wound was evaluated and dressed.
The plaintiff was transferred to a second hospital for further review, where it was decided emergency surgery was required to explore, irrigate and debride the wound. However, his operation was delayed due to other patients arriving at the hospital that were deemed higher priorities for treatment.
Instead, the plaintiff waited 12.5 hours before surgery was completed on August 22, 2011, which his lawyers argued was a crucial factor in the boy's subsequent problems.
Thumb injury deteriorates
The boy revisited the hospital a few days after he was discharged on August 24 following a bump to his thumb while playing with friends. His grandmother said the bandaging was wet and his thumb had a "funny smell" and a "blackish colour" when unwrapped.
He was scheduled for another doctor's visit on September 7 or 8, but his grandmother, concerned about his injury, took him to hospital on September 4. The tip of his thumb had become black and his wrist was now red and sore.
The wound was bandaged again and the plaintiff was due for review on September 6. However, again, his grandmother brought him in early because the wound was worsening.
His thumb had become necrotic and developed gangrene. Four days later, medical practitioners decided to amputate the top part of the thumb because it couldn't be saved.
Medical negligence claim
The plaintiff's lawyers believed several instances of negligence occurred:
- Delays in the original surgery;
- An inadequate antibiotics regime to combat infection; and
- Poor documentation with regards to the initial injury time.
Essentially, it was alleged that the time of the injury was not documented, which meant there was no reliable reference point to justify delaying the plaintiff's surgery for the washout of his thumb.
This delay meant the wound developed an infection, which was too strong for the prescribed antibiotics to tackle.
The judge agreed that medical negligence had occurred on all three counts, and awarded the plaintiff nearly $241,000 in damages based on future loss of earning capacity, non-economic losses and ongoing treatment.
Do you believe you've been the victim of medical negligence? Please get in touch with one of our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.