Guide to Claims for Gynaecological Negligence
This is your Guide to Claims for Gynaecological negligence. This is negligence in treating women’s problems. We hope you find it helpful. Please call our friendly team to speak to us for advice about a complaint or claim.
What is Gynaecology?
Gynaecology is a specialist branch of medicine. It involves anything to do with “women’s’ problems” (the female reproductive system). This area of medicine also covers:
- gynaecological oncology (e.g. ovarian cancer, cervical cancer & cervical intraepithelial neoplasia)
- infections (pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and chlamydia)
- ovarian disorders (genital prolapse and polycystic ovary syndrome)
- and medical conditions of the womb (such as the growth of fibroids and endometriosis).
How often does Negligence in Gynaecology happen?
According to research and data gathered by the Department Of Health, the number of cases of negligence in treating women’s problems has been increasing over the years.
The government has had to pay a total amount of £2,549,449, which is inclusive of damages and legal costs due to practitioners failing to comply with the set standards.
Negligent gynaecological procedures can result in devastating consequences for the woman, the unborn child and the family. With the possibility of life-threatening infections, patients should adopt a proactive approach to understanding gynaecological negligence.
Understanding Gynaecological Negligence
1. What is Negligence in treating women’s problems?
Gynaecological negligence can lead to both physical and psychological trauma. There are lots of things that, at times, go wrong. Examples are listed below:
- Delay in the diagnosis of cervical cancer and misreporting of smear tests.
- Keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) errors.
- Injury to internal organs, such as the bowel, bladder or uterus. This can happen during procedures such as hysteroscopy, hysterectomy and caesarean section.
- Failure to notice surgical damage to the bowel, bladder and uterus when it happens. This can lead to sepsis and the need for a stoma.
- Failing to diagnose third-degree tears after childbirth.
- Poor medical management of care and surgical errors, leading to hysterectomy (removal of the womb).
- ‘Gossypiboma’- This means instruments or swabs being left (retained) within the patient’s body.
- Nerve damage, for example, through the poor placement of surgical staples (sometimes called ‘Protacks’).
- Damage to the ‘obturator nerve’ due to insertion of tension-free vaginal tape (TVT)
- Contraception negligence. Patients can suffer a DVT or stroke if the pill is given when it should not be prescribed. In some cases, the wrong type of pill is prescribed. For example, if a patient has a family history of DVTs or stroke, then the full combined pill should not be given. In these circumstances, the mini-pill may be ok.
- Negligence during fertility treatment, for example, ineffective storage of embryos or semen.
- Injury caused during the termination of pregnancy (perforation of the womb).
- Failure to sterilise properly. For more information click here.
- Wrongful birth claims. For example, not advising an expectant mum that she is carrying a disabled child. This can deprive Mum of the opportunity to choose to terminate the pregnancy early on. The cost of raising a disabled child may be claimed.
- Failing to remove uterine fibroids safely. If your fibroid is large and previous attempts have failed, an open procedure should be discussed with you. Failure to discuss the safest and most effective surgical option is negligent.
- Failing to properly conduct tubal ligations or cauterise fallopian tubes.
- Ineffective or inadequate post-surgical monitoring.
- Flaws in consent for medical procedures.
- Lack of expertise in handling complicated procedures, such as hysteroscopy. This can lead to perforation and damage to the bowel leading to a patient having to have a stoma.
2. What are the short-term and long-term complications of gynaecological negligence?
A doctor’s negligence such as improper preparation, lack of skills, taking shortcuts, fatigue, or failure to communicate with other team members, can lead to life-threatening situations.
The complications can result in a wide range of physical ongoing issues, such as having to live with chronic pelvic pain and even having to have a stoma. There can be problems caused in trying to have a baby, such as failure to get pregnant, failure to give birth, failure to produce eggs and total loss of sexual function. In some cases, even death, due to gross negligence of a gynaecologist.
Clearly, serious physical consequences, are likely to also lead to psychological issues. Loss of fertility, or having to live with a stoma, can have a huge impact on self-esteem. Depression and anxiety conditions can result.
Do You Have A Good Claim in Negligence?
What qualifies as medical negligence when it comes to gynaecological issues?
There are a few legal tests to prove to be able to claim compensation.
Most of our clients are very surprised to learn that doctors are not expected to give excellent, or even good care! By law, as established in an old case of Bolam, only a reasonable standard of care has to be provided. This means the level of care that a ‘responsible body of doctors’ in the particular speciality would expect. If the care was not reasonable then it is ‘substandard’ i.e. negligent. This is the first legal test to satisfy to be able to bring a claim.
However, it is not enough to just prove negligent care You have to show that your injury has been caused by negligent care. It has to be shown that negligence has made a difference in your medical outcome. Provided you can satisfy both tests, then you can bring a claim for compensation.
How do I show that my medical care was negligent?
You will need most carefully chosen medico-legal experts. A doctor in the same field that you think let you down has to give a written opinion to support your claim. A court will not simply look at the facts as related by you. In medical claims, medical experts are essential.
There are solicitors around the country who have legal departments that specialise in the medical field. At Medical Solicitors, we believe are the only law firm in the UK to specialise solely in this field. We do nothing else!
It is critical that your usual solicitor does not ‘have a go’ at bringing a medical negligence claim for you. This is because the right calibre medico-legal experts and barristers will make, or break, your case. Even good claims can fail without the right experts on board. Only specialist solicitors have access to extensive registers. We have formed long relationships with reputable experts and barristers. Also, specialist firms have direct access to the type of insurance and funding needed for clinical negligence claims.
Why should I bring a gynaecological negligence claim?
Women suffering both physical and psychological traumatic due to gynaecological negligence should feel perfectly entitled to bring a claim. This is because the fallout from these type of injuries can be severe. Some ladies, unfortunately, are left with chronic pain, permanent in nature that can severely impact their day-to-day life. This can have knock-on effects in relation to working ability, being able to care for themselves and of course dire financial effects at times. If you have been left infertile, or with fertility issues, then you should be able to claim for the costs of private care with a Fertility Expert. You may also be able to claim for the private costs of surrogacy (which is legal in places such as California).
But is it ok to sue the NHS?
The NHS in the UK is a great thing that will have that those who have had poor treatment and whose lives have been badly affected by such poor treatment should not hesitate to bring a claim against the NHS. The NHS self insures and budgets for claims and, despite misrepresentation in the press, claims are not increasing against the NHS year by year.
The NHS, just like any other organisation should be accountable for its actions. The only way to bring about changes for the better in the NHS is to bring mistakes to their attention. This can be by way of complaints and claims. In some cases, this does bring about improvements in practice and protocols. This helps the NHS to provide better care for others in the future.
But how can I pay for a claim?
With our ‘no win, no fee’ agreement, patients don’t have to worry about the expenses of bringing a claim. Our clients are never asked to pay any money to us for the cost of their case as it progresses.
What else do you need to know about making a negligence claim related to gynaecology?
Provided supportive medicolegal reports are received, a Letter of Claim can then be sent to the healthcare provider. There is a four month period for them to respond. They can obtain their own independent medicolegal reports. If those reports support their position, they may choose to defend the action. If so, court proceedings would have to be commenced.
How long will a court case take?
The typical timescale for medical claims is anywhere between 1 to 3 years, as an average. Cases involving children can take far longer. In relation to claims on behalf of adults suffering from brain injuries, claims can also last longer. In such cases, typically, the value of the case is set to one side whilst the court deals with the liability issues. This is so a decision is made as soon as possible about whether the claimant has succeeded. The claimant then receives an interim payment of compensation whilst the parties move on to deciding how much total value claim is worth.
What is an average compensation payout?
An average payout by the National Health Service Litigation Authority is close to around £50,000. The payouts can range between £1,000 to millions, depending upon the severity of the case.
Patients need to take action within the time period of 3 years. However, claims can be brought out of time where there are good reasons for the delay (such as a patient being unaware until much later date that the negligent treatment had occurred, or the patient suffering from severe psychological trauma). Time does not run against children and the mentally disabled. The court can allow some claims out of time. For more information on exceptions made to time limits click here.
The Experience of Medical Solicitors in Past Gynaecological Negligence Claim
Our specialist team of solicitors have handled many different types of claims for negligence in treating women’s prpblems. The right medicolegal expert will make a case, but the wrong medicolegal expert will break it. We are extremely careful to maintain an extensive register of approved medicolegal experts. This allows us to give our clients the best chance of success in every case that we decide to investigate.
It is also of crucial importance to instruct the most competent barristers. We have an approved register of counsel with whom we regularly work and have established a relationship of trust.
At Medical Solicitors we are very conscious that the litigation process can be stressful for clients. We aim to pursue cases as quickly as possible and to minimise stress to our clients. We are focused upon maximising recovery of compensation in every individual case.
During our experience in securing substantial damages for our patients, we have investigated many types of gynaecological injuries.