Failure to Explain Risks of LASIK Eye Surgery: £47K Compensation

Summary

Legal action following failure to provide information regarding risks of ophthalmic surgery and obtain the client’s informed consent to LASIK laser surgery.

Settlement

£47,500 in damages – pre-trial settlement.

What Happened

The claim arose out of ophthalmic services provided to our client, A.A., in the form of LASIK laser surgery.

A.A., who was mid-thirties in age, was told by the Defendants that he was an ideal candidate for LASIK laser eye surgery. However, A.A.’s initial assessment records ‘trace of SPK’. SPK (superficial punctate keratitis) is an inflammation of the cornea and can be indicative of dry eyes. A.A. also experienced sensitivity to light which is a further indicator of dry-eyes; unfortunately, these findings were not discussed with him.

A.A. had a further appointment identified as a ‘SPK check-up’, but again he was not informed that this appointment was to check the SPK. A.A. was not told of the implications of SPK and its relation to dry eyes. He was not informed about the other risk factors laser eye surgery poses for dry eyes.  A.A. did not meet the surgeon until the day of the surgery leaving insufficient time for discussion.

In addition to not discussing these risks, a further breach was alleged because the Defendants did not properly investigate the cause of the SPK or suggest alternative forms of treatment. Instead they maintained A.A. was an ‘ideal candidate’ for the laser eye surgery.

The Defendants relied upon their standard ‘consent’ form as a means of giving advice and information regarding surgery, this is long, uses technical language and the print is small. It was particularly inappropriate for A.A. who speaks English as a second language at basic conversational level. A.A. was given the form, the Defendants did not go on to discuss the content or check his understanding of the form in any detail.

Immediately after the surgery, A.A. suffered from dry eyes and headaches. He was still told to go ahead with enhancement surgery without discussion of the risks and benefits or investigation into alternative treatments.

Following an eye examination at Moorfields Eye Hospital, A.A. discovered his vision was actually worse after the surgeries. The ongoing problems included reduced visual acuity, dry eyes, eye discomfort, headaches, blurred vision, glares and light sensitivity. A.A. developed difficulty with reading, computer work and driving.

The claim for damages sought compensation for AA’s pain and suffering and the expenses arising from the negligence, ie. the cost of the surgery with the Defendants, medical treatment and travel expenses given his difficulties driving and lack of public transport in his home country. A.A. also included a claim to compensate him for his reduced ability to work compared to his ability pre-surgery and the impact this would have on his ability to obtain an alternative job in the future.

Expert evidence confirmed that AA should have been informed that he had asymptomatic dry eyes, he should have been provided with an explanation that dry eyes are a complication of Lasik surgery and therefore it was quite likely that the asymptomatic dry eyes would be exacerbated by the surgery.  Expert evidence obtained additionally confirmed that A.A. was given generic documents prior to the surgery and he would not have suffered from heightened dry eye problems in the absence of surgery.  It was anticipated that  AA’s current symptoms would remain the unchanged and he would require ongoing medication for dry eyes.

Devonshires Claims recovered £47,500 in damages for A.A., he was supported throughout the investigation and litigation process of this medical negligence claim. A.A. commented at the end of the proceedings about his experience with Devonshires Claims  “My experience with them [Devonshires Claims] was great and they were helpful and made it possible for me to understand all the details easily”.

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