Lack of Informed Consent Leaves NHS Trust Liable for Paralysis

Have you had surgery recently? Did you know the risks of your surgical procedure before it happened?

‘Informed consent’ is a vital consideration when pursuing a personal injury claim when surgery goes wrong.

There is a risk with any surgical procedure and patients must be informed of those risks so they can make an informed decision on whether those risks outweigh the benefits of surgery. These are decisions that need careful consideration with all the relevant information provided to the patient by their caregiver on a factual basis.

The High Court considered a claim made by a schoolteacher who had undergone spinal decompression surgery to deal with an on-going back problem. The outcome of the surgery was that she was paralyzed. Her claim was based on the fact that she had not given informed consent as she was not aware that the operation could result in the paralysis.

The Court agreed with her and found that the surgical procedure and the associated risks had not been fully explained to her, and if she had been aware of those risks she would have reconsidered her position and would not have had surgery. On that basis, the Court found that she had not given ‘informed consent’.

There was no suggestion that the surgeon had made any mistakes he had skillfully and carefully done the operation, however, had she known that there was a 1 to 500 to 1 in 100 risk of paralysis she would have reconsidered her treatment options and not undergone surgery. The NHS trust responsible for the surgeon was therefore liable for the damages which were awarded at £4.4 million.

If you think you or a member of your family have suffered a medical injury while undergoing a surgical procedure, then contact us for advice.