Compensation for victims of medical accidents

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7124.73a (Published 03 January 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:73

One particular case recently took five years to be settled

  1. Caroline Richmond, Medical journalista
  1. a 21 Stratford Grove, London SW15 1NU
  2. b Department of Economics and Politics, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham NG1 4BU
  3. c Independent Medical, 40 Springcroft Avenue, London N2 9JE
  4. d 53-55 Argyle Road, Reading, Berkshire

    Editor—I am outraged that Harris thinks that victims of medical accidents should wait for their compensation after it has been agreed by their lawyers or decided by a court.1 Most victims have already waited five to seven years for the case either to come to court or be settled. It does not seem to have occurred to Harris that plaintiffs have already done more than their share of waiting.

    I am one such plaintiff. In April 1992 I went into hospital for an elective endometrial resection. I awoke to find that I had had an “elective” (non-emergency) hysterectomy for benign disease and that my still-ovulating ovaries had been “prophylactically” removed to prevent the possibility of ovarian cancer. This was not something made necessary as a result of an accident or mishap but was a decision by the surgeon. I had no say in it. I was, and still am, distraught.

    After a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to bring charges—a decision which, I might add, had a lot to do with witnesses being unwilling to “remember” my expressed aversion to hysterectomy or recall what had taken place in the operating theatre—I brought an action for negligence, and battery or trespass to the person, against the surgeon and the health authority. It took over five years for the case to be settled out of court, even though the defendants …

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