The article was first published in the Daily Mail on 19 August 2006.
“An eminent surgeon has agreed to pay more than £500,000 in damages to the family of a woman who died during a routine operation.
Catherine Ferguson – a £90,000-a-year BT manager – bled to death after Davor Jurkovic punctured a major blood vessel during a simple hospital procedure.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Mrs Ferguson’s 11-year-old son sued the doctor for clinical negligence in a case that was due to be heard at the High Court last month.
But the surgeon agreed to pay substantial damages – thought to be at least £500,000 – in an out-of-court settlement just days before the hearing.
Mrs Ferguson, 41, went to see Mr Jurkovic at King’s College Hospital, South London, as a private patient in July 2003 when she was suffering from abdominal pain.
The surgeon carried out a laparoscopy – a procedure which involves inserting a fibre-optic cable with a camera on the end into the stomach while the patient is under general anaesthetic. But the probe slipped and ruptured her aorta, a major artery connected to the heart. Despite desperate attempts to save her, she died from blood loss.
A verdict of misadventure was recorded at in inquest into her death at Southwark Coroner’s Court in 2003.
Mr Jurkovic denied that he was negligent, but issued an apology to the Fergusons and agreed to pay compensation, which will be covered by his insurers. Mrs Ferguson had the operation on a Saturday and had been expecting to return to work on the following Monday.
Her lawyer Paul McNeil said yesterday: ‘At the very beginning of the surgery, the operation went terribly wrong. During the insertion of an instrument into the abdomen, the surgeon ruptured Catherine’s aorta.
‘Notwithstanding the emergency attendance of a number of other doctors to theatre, Catherine bled to death.’
Mrs Ferguson’s parents Donald, a retired RAF officer, and Patricia, who live in Eastbourne, East Sussex, have been left distraught by the tragedy.
Her mother said: ‘She was a beautiful, a lovely person.’
Mr Ferguson added: ‘It’s been a very difficult time for everyone and now we are just trying to get on with our lives.’
Their daughter, a keen hockey player, was educated at the Royal Latin School in Buckingham.
Her son Fergus lives in London with his father Mark Endersby – a chartered accountant who was divorced from Mrs Ferguson.
Mr McNeil said Mrs Ferguson – who worked at the London Stock exchange before taking up her position at BT – had ‘considerable earning power’ ahead of her.
She headed a department pioneering new technology at the telecoms company. Mr Jurkovic, who qualified in Yugoslavia in 1981 claims that he ‘followed standard textbook procedures.’
The rupture of the aorta was ‘an event which could occur even in the best surgeon’s hands’, he added.
But just before the High Court hearing, he agreed to pay ‘very substantive damages and apologised to Catherine’s son’, Mr McNeil said.
Mr Jurkovic’s apology, given through his counsel, said: ‘Whether this court would ultimately have held Mr Jurkovic legally liable in respect of this tragedy is a matter for conjecture.
‘What is not in doubt is that legally liable or not, Mr Jurkovic is and keenly feels, responsible for what happened.
‘And the fact that his patient died during a minor operative procedure is something for which he offers a heartfelt and sincere apology’."
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