Informed consent: patient’s rights ignored by surgeon

Informed consent: patient’s rights ignored by surgeon

Nigel Brigg approached Pryers to claim compensation after a surgeon failed to get his informed consent before he had hip resurfacing surgery.

Osteoarthritis prevents sportsmanship

Nigel is a retired teacher and has always enjoyed sports and staying active. As a man in his sixties, he was proud of his many sporting achievements at competition level

Nigel would often cycle up to 20 miles a week. He played team sports and regularly jogged to maintain his fitness – he could run 10km in under an hour.

Sadly, Nigel started to get pain in his hips. It became unbearable and even just sitting down left him in agony.  

An x-ray showed that Nigel was suffering from osteoarthritis in both hips and his GP prescribed morphine for the pain.

Failure to get informed consent for surgery

Nigel went to see a surgeon at a private hospital. He was told that he needed hip surgery and a metal-on-metal component would be used. When Nigel went home and researched that kind of implant he was worried to find articles discussing problems with it.  

Nigel raised his concerns at his next appointment, but the surgeon dismissed them, telling him that the components he planned to use were different and had a ‘virtual 100% success rate’. He told Nigel that it would be the best option for his condition, and it would allow him to get back to playing sports.

No alternative devices or procedures were offered, and Nigel felt as though he was pushed into agreeing with the surgeons’ plan.  

Surgery without informed consent

At the end of the year, Nigel arrived at the hospital ready for the surgery to resurface his left hip. When he told the surgeon that he was having more pain in his right hip than his left, the surgeon said that he would just ‘do that one instead’. Nigel was concerned there was no discussion about the benefits or disadvantages of having the surgery and said he felt rushed into signing the consent form.

Post-surgery, Nigel suffered with an infection in the wound and was treated with antibiotics, before being discharged.

Over the following months, the pain gradually subsided, and he was able to get about more; he was more optimistic now about the next round of surgery on his other hip.

Further surgery commenced without informed consent

Six months later, Nigel had surgery on his left hip. He followed all the guidance he’d been given and although he noticed an improvement, it wasn’t as good as it had been when he’d had surgery on his right hip.  

A year later, Nigel had a review meeting with the surgeon, who seemed very happy with his progress and remained so at each of the following yearly reviews.

Confusion and a lack of knowledge

As the years went by, Nigel started to suffer pain in his hips again and feared that the surgery hadn’t worked as well as he’d first thought.

The surgeon arranged for him to have x-rays, tests to monitor his blood metal ion level and an MRI scan. When the MRI results didn’t arrive, Nigel contacted the National Joint Registry to try and find out more.

When Nigel was asked what implant he’d had, he realised there had never been any mention of which one he’d been given. He rang the surgeon’s secretary for details and was told that he’d had an ACCIS Implantcast fitted (a metal-on-metal implant with ceramic coating).  

Corrective surgeries needed

Nigel was told that he would need corrective surgery on both his hips, but his surgeon would not be available for another 12 months. Nigel didn’t feel able to wait a year. The surgeon told him that it wasn’t wise to do too many procedures, so he wasn’t keen to do anymore surgery.

Nigel persisted and eventually the surgeon agreed to perform the corrective surgery.

Corrective surgery, a lack of help and still no informed consent

Later that year, Nigel underwent corrective surgery on his right hip and noticed an immediate improvement. He couldn’t arrange corrective surgery on his left hip though because the surgeon seemed to be avoiding him.

Nigel eventually emailed the hospital, only to discover that he wasn’t even on the waiting list for the surgery. He was told new consultants had been taken on so his case would have to be reassessed before he could join the waiting list.

Feeling let down by the hospital and the surgeon, Nigel decided to change hospital and see a different consultant. The new consultant agreed that Nigel hadn’t been treated properly. Tests showed that his metal ion levels were dangerously high, despite the previous surgeon’s reassurance that they were ok. Corrective surgery was arranged for his left hip and Nigel hoped that would be the end of it.

Dislocations and further pain

A few months after the surgery, Nigel’s left hip dislocated twice and had to be manipulated back into place. He was told that if the dislocations continued, he would need yet more surgery.

Life after the hip dislocations

Nigel still experiences pain in both hips. His mobility is restricted, and he can only walk short distances. He feels embarrassed to have to ask for help from his family. The situation upsets him; it’s a world away from the active lifestyle he used to enjoy.

Nigel said: “I feel like I can’t live a full and active life anymore and sport isn’t a big part of my life like it was. It saddens me that I can’t even enjoy playing games, such as football, with my grandchildren. My life is in the slow lane now and it’s really had an impact on me and my family.”

Nigel’s condition and drastic change in lifestyle has also affected his mental health.

How we helped

Nigel came to Pryers to claim compensation after he’d met with his new surgeon and discovered that he’d received treatment that was below the standard he was entitled to expect.

Angus Buchanan, a solicitor at Pryers, handled Nigel’s claim. He took time to make sure that Nigel felt informed and listened to at all times; something that sadly lacking with the first surgeon.

After gathering the necessary medical evidence, Nigel’s case was put to the defendant hospital. They weren’t very forthcoming with a response, leaving Angus with no option but to start court proceedings.

Angus said: “Patients should be given full details of their procedures and receive information about any alternative procedures that are available so that they are able to make an informed decision. Sadly, this did not happen and consequently Nigel has suffered both physically and mentally.”

Our investigations found evidence that the ACCIS device was a new, untested option that the surgeon had helped to develop. The expert that we instructed also stated that there is a lack of even short-term clinical data for this product. Nigel should have been told this before he consented to the surgery.

With proper information about the procedure and his options, Nigel would not have chosen to go ahead with a new and untested product when alternatives with more safety data were available.

A successful settlement

Angus wanted to make sure that Nigel received proper compensation for the hospital’s negligence, and the impact it had on his life. When assessing the level of compensation, it’s important to make sure that the settlement covers any future costs for care and psychiatric treatment that could be needed and also compensates for the impact on a person’s quality of life.  

The defendant made an offer to settle but it was rejected for being too low. After some negotiation, the offer was increased to £60,000. Nigel was delighted with the settlement and we’re happy to know that the money will help him and his family in the future.

Nigel said: “I’m so grateful to Angus. He took to time to research all avenues to make sure my claim was maximised. He listened patiently to all my concerns and took the time to explain everything to me. His dedication and commitment really helped me and I will always be thankful for that. I would recommend Pryers for any legal services.”

How we could help you

If you feel that you’ve suffered because of a lack of information or being given the incorrect advice, prior to any surgical procedure, our team could help you to claim compensation.

Please contact us so we can advise if we can help you on a no win, no fee basis.

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