Clare* previously worked in the fire service but took early retirement in her 40s because of a history of back pain. She had previously declined surgery for this problem.
Aged 54, she presented with weakness in her right ankle, but could still walk and lived independently. She was also the main carer for an elderly friend.
A surgeon at St George's Hospital recommended Clare undergo thoracic discectomy surgery to remove a disc in her spine. Clare understood that without surgery, it was certain she would become paralysed and that the inherent risk of paralysis from the recommended surgery was negligible.
On this basis, she consented. But when she woke up after the operation, she was paralysed in both legs and was doubly incontinent. Although she underwent inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, there was no prospect of any neurological recovery.
We explored liability with an expert in neurological surgery. The case focused on the principles set out in Montgomery, the 2015 landmark case on informed consent.
Quantum was explored which was complicated by pre-existing conditions, co-morbidities and a short life expectancy, but eventually Clare's case settled for £1.75m in December 2021.
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