Patient compensated as 'didn't give consent'

Posted: 2nd May 2019

SurgeryBefore undergoing surgery, patients have an absolute legal right to be fully informed of the risks involved and any alternative treatments that may be available.

In a case on point, a patient who did not give informed consent to brain surgery that ended disastrously won the right to very substantial compensation.

The patient suffered a catastrophic stroke during the operation to reduce the size of a tumour and was left seriously disabled. The surgeon had inadvertently severed a blood vessel during the operation, triggering a torrential bleed.

In ruling on the resulting compensation claim, the High Court noted that the surgical method employed in the operation was a novel one, involving the use of an endoscope. The standard technique would have employed a microscope and, whilst requiring a larger craniotomy, would have given the surgeon a direct line of sight to the tumour.

Neither the method used nor the surgeon’s performance of the operation had been negligent. In upholding the patient’s claim, however, the Court found that the surgeon had breached his duty of care in not offering the patient the standard operation as an alternative and in failing to explain the comparative risks and benefits of the two techniques. The patient had therefore not been given all the information that he required in order to give informed consent to the operation.

The Court found that, had he been provided with that information, the patient would probably have opted for the standard technique. Had that course been taken, it was likely that the bleeding would have been more easily controlled and that he would not have suffered the stroke. The patient was awarded £500,000 in interim compensation, pending assessment of his final award.