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Sterilisation and the risk of Medical Negligence

Solicitors in London

News article published on: 13th January 2015

Every medical procedure comes at a cost. For what we try to treat, improve, save, there are recognised risks and often inevitable consequences. Before every medical procedure a patient should be made fully aware of all risks including the possible side effects and recognised complications in order to make an informed decision as whether to consent to undergo the procedure. There mere fact that one of the risks materialises, does not necessarily mean that the treating medical professional’s conduct was negligent. On the contrary, the side effects might occur even if the treating medical professional acts in accordance with accepted medical procedure standards. 

When is a medical treatment negligent? 

Under English law, you can only claim compensation for injuries and associated financial losses if you can show that the proposed Defendant was ‘negligent’ and that this caused loss or damage to you. Negligence means making a mistake which would not have been made by any reasonably competent clinician in the relevant field. If some reasonably competent clinicians would have done the same thing, the claim will fail.

A recent example of negligent treatment that gained a lot of publicity was the mass sterilisation procedures performed by Dr R K Gupta in India leading to numerous fatalities. It was reported that Dr Gupta performed 83 sterilisation procedures within 5 hours in a filthy abandoned hospital. This means that the average time he spent on a sterilisation procedure was under 4 minutes, It would have been a great achievement if only there were no complications. Unfortunately, in the case of Mr Gupta, 14 out of 83 of his patients died following the sterilisation procedure.

Such high fatality would suggest a very poorly conducted procedure and this suspicion also rushed the local authorities to investigate the case and arrest Dr Gupta. Despite the appalling conditions in the hospital where the procedures were performed and the minimal time afforded to each individual procedure, there were also arguments to suggest that there were other elements that caused or contributed to these fatalities.

After the sterilisation procedures, the Dr Gupta’s patients were given 2 different types of medication, namely, Ipobrufen and Ciprofloxacin.  One is a painkiller/anti-inflammatory the other an antibiotic.  It was reported that after taking the medication, the patients complained of dizziness and weakness, and some began vomiting.  The local authorities subsequently banned six drugs used during and after the procedures on suspicion of poor quality and the drugs were sent for testing.

It would appear that the deaths might have been caused by either medical substandard treatment or poor quality medication which should lead to a detailed investigation.  While such investigation would not bring back the lost lives, it can find out why the mistakes were made and prevent further deaths and partially compensate the families of the deceased.

What is sterilisation?

Sterilisation is a procedure carried out to prevent pregnancy occurring. Sterilisation can be carried out on man (vasectomy) or a woman. Female sterilisation can be done either by blocking the fallopian tubes or by inserting implants to block the fallopian tubes. Male sterilisation, on the other hand, means that the tubes carrying sperm from a man’s testicles are cut, blocked or sealed. The procedure for men and women can be reversible in most cases.

While sterilisation is being perceived as a highly successful method of anti-conception, it is not 100% effective and there is a very small risk that pregnancy might occur. The mere fact that a woman becomes pregnant after male or female sterilisation procedure does not necessarily mean that the procedure was performed negligently.

It is a recognised risk that a person post-sterilisation procedure might suffer from infection, pain and discomfort; this would have to be monitored closely in order to exclude any more serious consequences. Whether any of the symptoms are due to medical negligence, would have to be investigated on an individual basis. Medical records need to be obtained and thoroughly reviewed before a case for negligence can be determined. Expert evidence from an independent medical expert may also be required.

If you think that you have suffered substandard medical care or treatment as a result of delays by the emergency services, you can contact Osbornes Medical Negligence department for a free and confidential conversation on 020 7485 8811. Alternatively, you can email either Stephanie Prior, Head of Medical Negligence at stephanieprior@osbornes.net or Ewelina Ochab at ewelinaochab@osbornes.net

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