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She was told that the ’straightforward’ procedure would reduce her dependence on glasses and cost around £3,000. She had suffered with a number of eye conditions since childhood, including retinitis pigmentosa (an inherited condition affecting the retina at the back of the eye) but was advised by the clinic that her conditions did not prevent her from undergoing the surgery.
After the surgery she suffered painful symptoms during her recovery. Her vision ultimately deteriorated rendering her far more dependent on glasses than she had been before the operation. She also suffered with symptoms of dry eyes, a common side-effect of laser eye surgery which is permanent.
Unhappy with the outcome and what she suspected might be sub-standard treatment, she instructed Richard Bannister, a lawyer specialising in medical negligence cases at Shoosmiths, to explore the possibility of making a claim.
Investigations carried out by Richard, a solicitor in the firm’s Birmingham medical negligence team, revealed that the advice to undergo laser eye surgery was inappropriate and that our client was not warned of the risks specific to her.
Her pre-existing eye condition meant that she was likely to develop cataracts at an earlier age. In view of this, it would have been better for her vision to be corrected by way of lens implant when she required surgery for cataracts some time in the future.
In fact she was never advised about this alternative form of treatment. Since March 2015, doctors, surgeons and any other professional offering clinical services must demonstrate that they have obtained a patient’s ‘informed consent’ to a proposed treatment or surgery. Failure to do so constitutes negligence and is a basis for making a claim should the patient suffer any harm. Information about the risks and alternatives should be explained in non-technical language. Reciting a jargon-laden list of medical terms is not enough to demonstrate ‘informed consent’.
There was clearly a failure to obtain that ’informed consent’ in this case, however, in addition Shoosmiths investigations and evidence from experts showed that the laser had been incorrectly programmed to take account of the curvature of the eye and this also contributed to the poor outcome.
The claim against the surgeon and the clinic became more complex and difficult than is usual in these cases since it became apparent that the surgeon had been performing procedures without professional indemnity insurance and the clinic had also been placed into administration, but was continuing to trade. Despite these difficulties Shoosmiths continued to fight the legal case resulting in a settlement for a five-figure sum.