New South Wales District Court has awarded a female patient $331,000 after surgery to remove a tumour near her brain resulted in paralysis on the right side of her face.
The Macedonian woman argued her medical negligence claim on two main issues. Firstly, she said the hospital failed to adequately inform her of the risks of surgery before obtaining consent. Furthermore, she suggested negligence during the operation contributed to the mistake that caused her paralysis.
The surgery occurred in 2009 when the patient was 63 years old. She went to hospital complaining of hearing loss on her left side accompanied by balance problems and the sensation of having a foreign body in her ear.
Doctors discovered a benign tumour on her acoustic nerve, which is adjacent to the facial nerve that controls muscles on the right side of the face.
Unfortunately, the facial nerve was damaged during the operation and despite repair work left the patient with various problems including jaw pain, dribbling from the mouth, speech difficulties and a nasal collapse. Other issues include continued dizziness, corneal dryness and irritation, a change in taste on the right side of her mouth and problems eating.
Medical negligence claim
According to court documents, the woman claimed she was not informed of the risks of her surgery, due in part to communication problems because of her lack of English skills.
Importantly, the hospital failed to provide a Macedonian interpreter, despite the plaintiff’s request. Instead, the woman’s friend acted as translator. This created confusion between medical staff and the patient, with the woman erroneously believing she had a tumour inside her brain that needed to be removed.
She told the courts that had she realised the tumour was only near her brain and surgery was not essential she would not have proceeded. Interpretation problems also meant she was allegedly unaware that the operation could result in stroke-like symptoms.
The judge ruled in the woman’s favour, agreeing she had not received enough information regarding the surgery to make an informed decision. However, there was no evidence to suggest negligence occurred during the operation itself, meaning this part of her case was not sufficiently supported to receive compensation.
Nevertheless, failure to obtain sufficient consent meant the hospital was liable for $331,000 in damages. A large portion of this – $274,500 – was awarded for non-economic losses, including pain and suffering.