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Cosmetic surgery case study

+ Medical Negligence
+ Sara Westwood
Sara Westwood

In 2004 our client (LB) was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Like many women with the condition, this led to weight gain and triggered excess androgen; “male hormones” that caused her to develop excess facial and body hair. At just 26 years of age, and weighing 28 stone, LB felt robbed of her femininity and wanted to do something about it.

She went on a course of medication to treat her condition and embarked on a significant lifestyle change. By 2007 she had lost an incredible 15 stone. She marked each 5 stone loss by having a tattoo.

As a consequence of the weight loss LB was left with excess flesh which the NHS was not prepared to remove by way of an abdominoplasty, also known as a tummy tuck. This form of cosmetic surgery improves the appearance of your abdomen and involves removing excess skin and fat, as well as tightening the abdominal muscles.

LB therefore decided to pay for it herself and following extensive research she chose to approach The Hospital Group who had several clinics around the UK and chose to have her surgery carried out at Dolan Park Hospital in Birmingham.

Some pre-op tests carried out by The Hospital Group revealed that she had a higher than normal white blood cell count (she was fighting an infection), but she was advised that it was safe for her to have the surgery so it went ahead. “As soon as I came around from the surgery, I felt very ill. I experienced a crunching glass sensation in my belly and the tops of my legs. I was discharged home after just one day and then at home my condition deteriorated rapidly.”

Within a few days LB’s wound was giving off a terrible stench, and despite antibiotics and regular dressing of the surgical wound, she ended up back in hospital with sepsis. “I recall the doctor asking me if I was aware just how critical my condition was. I spent 3 weeks in hospital and then a further 9 months living with an open wound so that debridement (a procedure where they strip away infected cells) could be performed. It was a truly terrible experience.” Eventually her condition improved so that she was able to have reconstruction surgery via the NHS.

The Hospital Group had been negligent by performing the surgery knowing that LB was suffering from an infection and she therefore looked to pursue a medical negligence case against them. LB was shocked to learn that the cosmetic surgeon who performed her abdominoplasty had been brought in from Italy and hired by The Hospital Group on a ‘freelance’ basis. They argued that technically the surgeon wasn’t employed by them and therefore any claim would need to be made against the surgeon personally. Further investigations by her lawyers revealed that whilst the surgeon was insured, his policy was Italian therefore LB would have to sue him in Italy and submit to Italian jurisdiction. The expense and complexities of this meant it wasn’t a realistic option for her to pursue.

LB’s legal team worked hard to pursue her case against The Hospital Group who eventually agreed to pay her some, but not all, of the compensation she was entitled to. After 2 weeks of receiving her payment, The Hospital Group went into administration.

LB’s experience highlights the awareness that those contemplating this surgery need to have about checking that cosmetic surgeons and organisations offering cosmetic procedures are properly insured. LB did ask The Hospital Group whether they were insured prior to having her surgery but they lied, as in fact their insurance only covered the hospital and employed staff, not contractors.

 

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