A successful medical negligence claim can result in compensation for a wide range of costs, including hospital bills, past and future lost income, care expenses and necessary home modifications or disability aids.
Payouts can therefore be considerable if the patient suffered extreme and permanent injuries or illnesses as a result of treatment. This is especially true when the individual was young at the time of the incident, as compensation must provide financial support across their lifetime.
A case from earlier this year shows just how expensive some settlements can be for medical practitioners when they fail in their duty of care to patients. In fact, the claim may end up being the biggest payout for medical negligence in NSW this year.
Patient seeks surgery for breathing problems
The patient was a 24-year-old man at the time of the incident in 2009. He has Noonan Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that affects various areas of the body.
Individuals with Noonan Syndrome often have disfigured facial features, heart defects, short stature and developmental delays. Between one in 1,000 and one in 2,500 people are born with the condition, according to the Noonan Syndrome Awareness Association.
The plaintiff had an idiosyncratic chest because of the disorder, which caused breathing problems due to limited space for his lungs to expand. Eventually, his symptoms became so severe that he underwent two operations to remedy the situation.
While the first was completed without issue, complications arose in the second surgery, rendering the patient paraplegic.
Why was the hospital negligent?
The patient's paraplegia was caused when he suffered a spinal stroke while on the operating table.
His vital signs had plummeted during the surgery, and although the procedure was eventually abandoned, the plaintiff claimed his doctor and anaesthetist were negligent in not halting the operation more quickly. Furthermore, the plaintiff's legal team argued that moving him from a face down to a face-up position could have prevented irreparable damage to his spinal cord.
Justice Ian Harrison agreed that the medical practitioners had been negligent by proceeding with the surgery, despite obvious warning signs.
He also ruled that closing up the wound and turning the patient to a supine position earlier would have, in all likelihood, prevented the spinal stroke that led to the paraplegia. As such, Justice Harrison awarded the plaintiff more than $3.8 million, including over $1 million in past and future domestic care.
Do you suspect that doctors have been negligent in your treatment? Contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to see if you're entitled to pursue a claim.