Incompetent surgeon's victims compensated

Posted: 9th October 2017

SurgeonIncompetent doctors can leave untold misery in their wake and that was certainly so in the case of one breast surgeon who let down hundreds of his patients.

Legal redress is thankfully available, however, and lawyers representing almost 750 affected women negotiated a £37 million settlement of their cases.

Over a period of many years, consultant Ian Paterson, who worked both privately and for the NHS, carried out invasive operations on breast cancer patients.

He was, amongst other things, alleged to have frequently misdiagnosed malignancy and performed unnecessary and incomplete surgery without obtaining patients’ informed consent. He was jailed in May on 17 counts of causing grievous bodily harm and three of wounding with intent and in August had his term of imprisonment increased to 20 years after the Court of Appeal agreed his original sentence of 15 years had been unduly lenient.

After lawyers pursued a group action, Paterson’s professional indemnity insurers accepted liability. However, an NHS trust and a private medical provider for which he worked denied that they knew, or ought to have known, that he was incompetent. They also disputed claims that they had failed to monitor or supervise his practice, or investigate complaints made against him.

Following negotiations, however, lawyers achieved settlements of claims brought by the surgeon’s NHS patients. A compromise was also reached with the private medical provider in respect of 746 private patients. It was agreed that a £37 million fund would be established to meet claims by those patients and any further claims that are lodged before the deadline date of 30 October 2018. The proportion of the fund that each of the defendants will contribute remained confidential.

The High Court’s approval of the settlement was required because the surgeon was viewed as a protected party, incapable of managing his own affairs. In granting that approval, the Court found that the settlement was favourable from his perspective and that finality in the litigation was in his best interests and those of his former patients. The Court expressed heartfelt sympathy for the patients and acknowledged that no amount of money could eradicate the wrong done to them.