Medical Law Expert Says There is ‘No Excuse’ For Patients Not To Be Warned Of Risks Of Surgery
A former City solicitor left with devastating facial disfigurement following a series of errors made during and after routine surgery in 2009 has spoken of her fear that she will never get justice for what happened, following delays in the hospital trust’s handling of the case, after she was given the devastating news she has deadly cancer.
Jan Middleton, from Chiswick, West London had a series of operations in 2009 at Charing Cross and Chelsea and Westminster hospitals in London leaving her facially disfigured, visually and neurologically impaired and unable to work. She alleges in court documents that the surgeons were negligent.
Jan had an operation to address occasional swelling across the left eye and temple in January 2009. Despite being told the operation was a success, the wound became infected and very painful. Jan repeatedly returned to lead clinician plastic surgeon Niall Kirkpatrick and lead clinician neurology surgeon David Peterson for a series of unsuccessful corrective operations at Charing Cross Hospital in London which resulted in her facial skin and flesh dissolving and her skull bone visibly pushing through.
She then required a twelve hour operation at Chelsea & Westminster hospital, by the same medical team, to remove a significant portion of bone from her face and a muscle transfer from her back, leaving her face permanently disfigured, but still mistakenly leaving her with potentially fatal post-operative infections..
Jan, 55, instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell who secured admissions of liability from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust that those treating Jan had:
- Failed to advise her about the associated risks of the surgery
- Failed to provide adequate antibiotics to prevent infection
- Failed to act quickly enough once the infection arose after surgery.
Jan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012 but is concerned that she will not live to see her case resolved, as, despite knowing of her severely diminished life expectancy, the Trust’s solicitors have now gone back on their previous admissions.
Ian Christian, a Partner who specialises in helping victims of negligent surgery, said: “Jan is an intelligent woman and her life has been ruined by the 2009 surgery that she only agreed to because she was strongly advised to undergo it.
“Had she have known the potential risks of the surgery, she would most certainly have reconsidered and she should not have been left in the position she is now.
“We are desperate to secure justice for Jan as soon as possible given the devastating news that she has cancer and we are disappointed that the Trust’s solicitors are now seeking to withdraw admissions of liability. This approach will only prolong the case when Jan has such a short time to live.”
He said: “There is no excuse for patients not being fully informed about the potential dangers of any surgical procedure.
“Jan has had no reassurance that any lessons have been learnt from the failings in her treatment and care and it is absolutely imperative she receives this to reassure her that the same mistakes won’t happen again to other people in the future.”
Jan is disappointed that both surgeons have appeared in TV programmes since operating on her in 2009 and most recently Niall Kirkpatrick featured in the Channel 5 documentary Botched Up Bodies transmitted on 14th January 2013, where he and his team were seen helping patients who have been left disfigured by inadequate private sector cosmetic surgery.
Jan said: “Before my first operation, I was a successful lawyer dealing with high-profile, high value and often politically sensitive commercial matters. Having been someone who worked in various jobs since I was 16 years old, I had anticipated being able to return to work within a few months of the January 2009 operation.
“Instead, as a consequence of the damage, I have been left not only unable to work since January 2009 but because of the physical restrictions I have also been unable to carry out the cancer patient’s ‘traditional bucket list’ of seeing and achieving certain things before it’s too late.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the events of 2009 and consequent physical damage permanently devastated my life. I arranged clinical reviews by a number of world renowned facial surgeons who have all told me that no amount of surgery could significantly improve my face, and what minimal improvements could be made would take place over a period of seven years surgery and treatments. There are a number of other debilitating physical problems that stemmed from the 2009 surgery, such as balance difficulties, visual impairment, and aphasia.
“Trying to treat the different multiple aspects of the 2009 damage has resulted in considerable cost to the NHS that should not have happened. As a direct consequence of the 2009 surgery, I have needed frequent discussions with my NHS GP who has tirelessly assisted me and I have required extensive treatment by a number of NHS consultant doctors.
“When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I viewed it as random bad luck and obviously being aware of the limited time that I have left to live, I was pleased that my law team at Irwin Mitchell had managed to make some progress by obtaining some admittances from the NHS Litigation Authority. For me, this was never solely about the money – no amount of money could have compensated for the 2009 unnecessary destruction of my life. It was also about accountability.
“I very much feel that the Trust is now trying to take advantage of my cancer illness by attempting to spin things out as long as possible, knowing that I will find it increasingly difficult to deal with the litigation as the cancer progresses."
If you or a loved one has suffered due to a surgical error or negligence, our medical negligence solicitors could help you claim compensation. Visit our Surgery Compensation Claims page for more information.