Compensation claim could be a wake up call

Most people about to undergo surgery are anxious enough about the procedure without having the added fear of waking up in the middle of it because of drug error. Such an experience is bound to be traumatic, and it’s easy to see how a compensation claim could be fully justified. Recent research by the Royal College of Anaesthetists found that for every 19,000 operations, one patient will become conscious during surgery, despite being under general anaesthetic. Put another way, around 150 people a year in the UK say they have been awake at some stage during surgery. It’s still a rare occurrence but experts agree that more needs to be done to prevent it happening.

Over 300 patients included in the research described having some sense of awareness during surgery, and some remembered experiences from years before. Patients detailed a range of experiences, such as pain, panic, and a choking sensation. Around 41% of patients said they had had long-term psychological effects. Some patients described feeling paralysed and not being able to communicate. Another patient, who woke up during a routine orthodontic operation when she was 12, was convinced she was going to die, and is still having nightmares fifteen years later.

Anaesthetists give a combination of drugs to lower consciousness during surgery but researchers believe that in some cases, they get the balance of drugs wrong and patients are aware – or wake up – but are unable to move or communicate. Although rare, the experience is highly distressing – a fact acknowledged by Prof Tim Cook, of the Royal United Hospital in Bath. He said he hoped that the report’s findings would make anaesthetists pay even more attention to ensuring such experiences were prevented. Patients making a compensation claim for psychological suffering because of an experience like the 12-year-old had, doesn’t seem unreasonable. Fifteen years on, the now grown woman still has nightmares of being attacked by monsters trying to paralyse her.

No one wants to resort to making a compensation claim against the NHS, although it could be argued that it may help to send the right kind of ‘wake-up’ call to anaesthetists. Making a compensation claim against a big organisation like the NHS can seem pretty daunting but if you’ve ended up with psychological problems because of someone else’s incompetence, you’re entitled to at least consider it. Seeking advice from the experts at PHC Law will help to clarify matters. They have a 98% success rate of winning compensation claims on behalf of clients, and over a 100 years’ combined legal experience.