A male patient was awarded compensation after being admitted to hospital for a routine hernia operation but later suffered a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), causing a blockage of the blood vessel between the heart and the lungs (pulmonary embolism). The patient is now left needing to take powerful medication for the rest of his life.
At the court hearing, the patient said the hospital staff had not advised him of the risks of thrombosis - the formation of a blood clot - or an embolism following a hernia operation. In their defence the hospital Trust argued that the patient had been negligent because he had not gone straight to his GP when his symptoms first appeared.
The patient replied that the hospital had not made him aware of the signs and symptoms of DVT or the importance of seeking medical help. Consequently, he failed to recognise the significance of a typical symptom of DVT when his calf muscle became painfully swollen soon after the hernia operation.
“A patient has a right to be told..”
The court accepted the claimant’s evidence that the pain in his calf was believed to be caused by “inactivity” rather than the operation and therefore, the patient “could not reasonably have foreseen” that by failing to seek medical attention he would suffer deep vein thrombosis.
The judge ruled that “a patient has a right to be told much more about the risks of treatment beforehand,” adding that doctors have a “duty of care” to tell patients of anything that they would be justifiably hurt and upset not to have been told about when they are made aware of its significance.
In conclusion, the judge said that a safe, responsible medical practice should be to warn patients of the slight but potential risk of DVT before they undergo general anaesthetic for a routine hernia procedure.