Patient dies after “catastrophic” surgery

Date: Nov 11, 2011

A hospital in the nation's capital is under review after it was revealed that a "catastrophic" procedure may have claimed a patient's life.

According to internal documents available through freedom of information laws, the victim was admitted to hospital for surgery on her hip – only to have the procedure performed on the wrong side of her body.

While the hospital apologised to the woman's family after the incident and later had the operation on the correct location, she subsequently died.

The facts of the case are currently the subject of an investigation by the territory's coroner – with the department seeking to determine whether or not the death of the patient was due to her incorrect procedure or other health complications.

Internal documents described the initial surgery's occurrence as "involving the wrong body part resulting in death or major permanent loss of function" – a classification understood to come under the technical heading of "a catastrophic incident".

They then went on to say that the hospital deemed the outcome of the mistaken procedure to be "extreme".

Director general at ACT Health Dr Peggy Brown said that such errors were inevitable but was quick to assure that the number of incidents remained very small.

Brown asserted: "We analyse what might be the contributing factors, whether there's factors about the system that can be improved, whether there might be issues about the individual performance of an individual clinician and then we look to at what can be improved and we implement those recommendations."

Speaking on the botched surgery, a spokeswoman from the Health Directorate said the issue of health care was an extremely complex system and that "at times, things can go wrong".

She asserted: "We recognise the hardship for the patients, their families, and their friends in relation to these incidents and have extended full support, care and assistance to all involved and will continue to do so.

"Any adverse event is a concern … [and] we are fortunate in the ACT that adverse events are not common."

The spokeswoman then went on to say that the hospital in question had paid out approximately $2.6 million in medical compensation claims over the last 16 months.

While the initial process of applying for these payments can seem daunting, victims in NSW can engage with a no win no fee law firm to explore their legal options before committing to a course of action.

Medical negligence lawyers can review the circumstances surrounding a procedure and offer advice based on a wealth of past experience.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.