Man win (pounds sterling)1m compensation 28 years after operation

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 05 November 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1185
  1. C Dyer

    A British man who was severely brain damaged during an operation for cleft lip and palate at the age of 6 months has won more than pounds sterling1m in compensation 28 years later. The High Court this week approved a £1050 000 settlement for Andrew Hatchley, whose mother, Margaret, accepted at the time that his injuries were “just fate.” It was only in 1989, after Andrew kept asking her to explain what had happened to him, that she consulted a solicitor.

    Less than 18 months later Norwich Health Authority and East Anglian Regional Health Authority admitted liability. The operation had been carried out at the Jenny Lind Hospital, Norwich, in December 1966. Hospital notes showed that the baby had been febrile in the preceding two weeks. But this was overlooked and the operation went ahead, with “predictable but avoidable” consequences, said the family's counsel, James Badenoch QC. Andrew Hatchley's brain was starved of oxygen, and he suffered permanent brain damage.

    Mr Hatchley is unable to stand or walk without a frame. His intellect and speech are affected, and his counsel said that he was unlikely ever to get a job or to marry. Mr Justice French said that Mr Hatchley's mother and her second husband had devoted themselves to his care without help from outside agencies. The judge adjourned the case for a structured settlement to be worked out to provide Mr Hatchley with an income for life, which could total several million pounds.

    The health authorities have already paid £200 000 in interim damages, enabling the family to buy Mr Hatchley his own bungalow and pay for a full time carer, physiotherapy, and speech therapy. As a result his life had undergone a “remarkable transformation,” which was “extraordinary to behold,” said Mr Badenoch. “It is almost as if clipped wings had grown again.” His mobility, speech, and self confidence had vastly improved, to the “delight and amazement” of everyone.

    Mrs Hatchley said outside court: “This is going to give Andrew a better quality of life, and the future is pretty bright.” She said that when she asked after the operation what had gone wrong she was told that there had been an outbreak of chickenpox and that a new kind of anaesthetic had been used.

    “Nobody ever said what actually went wrong. I just accepted that it was one of those things.”

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