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Personal injury news 20/02/2007

The cost of surgical blunder compensation claims revealed

Personal injury compensation claims resulting from appalling medical mix-ups have more than doubled in the past year, a top newspaper has revealed.

The Daily Mail reported that medical negligence claims made after doctors removed incorrect body parts soared in 2005-2006. More than 1 million in personal injury compensation was paid out to victims of the horrific blunders and patients' groups have expressed their shock at figures.

Among the errors highlighted by The Daily Mail were four cases of the wrong hip being replaced, five of the incorrect leg being amputated and eight of the wrong spinal disc being removed.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg, however, and there have been a whole host of other clinical negligence cases that have resulted in compensation claims. One unfortunate man awoke from surgery to find that bungling doctors had removed the wrong testicle while an equally unfortunate woman discovered that her perfectly healthy uterus had been removed when medical staff performed a hysterectomy on the wrong patient.

It seems that children aren't safe from having to make compensation claims because of medical negligence and The Daily Mail reported an incident in which doctors accidentally visited the wrong home and a young boy ended up being circumcised as a result.

A spokesman from The Patients Association commented on the volume of blunders that have occurred and said, "I am really surprised and shocked by this figure because you don't expect doctors of all people to make these serious errors.

"At the end of the day they have to make sure they are reading the patients' notes before an operation is started. They have to see their patient's history and take extra care to make sure they don't make mistakes that cause undue grief to them.

"These mistakes ruin people's lives and cost the NHS millions of pounds a year in compensation and legal fees."

The mistakes do indeed cost the NHS millions of pounds through personal injury compensation claims and the total bill for all types of medical negligence hit 560 million in 2005-2006. Just over 1 million of this figure was spent on compensating victims of 'wrong site surgery' (medical jargon for operating on the wrong person or the wrong body part) and, quite shockingly, this has increased from 447,000 three years ago.

In addition to incorrectly circumcised children, wrongly removed uteruses and damaging testicular blunders, The Daily Mail also reported a number of other disturbing cases of people waking up after operations to find that all was not as it should be.

The newspaper refers to several cases of people having to make compensation claims after their healthy kidneys were removed instead of their cancerous ones and also tells of a neurosurgery patient who had holes drilled into the wrong side of his head by a blundering surgeon.

These cases, along with hundreds of others each year, all contribute to the huge number of personal injury compensation claims that are made by people who have put their trust in the hands of medical experts but have been badly let down, often with tragic results.