The stress from a claim

‘Business Dilemmas’

Dr Ellie Mien

A surgeon suffers huge emotional distress when a claim is received more than two years after an operation. Dr Ellie Mein gives some sound advice on how to respond





Dilemma 1

How can I cope with this claim?

Q I am a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who has a patient with a history of dislocations of his left shoulder. 

Following a diagnostic arthroscopy and a CT arthrogram of the joint, I discussed the options available to the patient. These included not having surgery and risk further dislocations or to undergo a Latarjet procedure, advising the patient that this would require an overnight stay. 

The patient chose to have surgery but, against my advice, discharged himself later the same day.

Some days later, the patient required surgical exploration of his wound to evacuate a haematoma that had developed after the initial procedure. Twelve weeks after the surgery, he was diagnosed as having sustained a rupture of the left long head of biceps tendon.

The patient has now brought a claim against me, more than two years after the surgery. They have alleged that during the operation, I failed to inspect the operative field sufficiently and that an arterial blood vessel was actively bleeding. 

This claim has caused a great deal of emotional distress and I’m very concerned on how this will impact upon my professional reputation. 

What should I do?