What is gynaecology medical negligence?
Clinical (or medical) negligence occurs when a medical professional causes you harm because they act in a manner that deviates from the proper medical standard of care. To prove medical negligence has occurred, it is necessary to show:
- The doctor owed a duty of care, and;
- The duty of care was breached, and;
- The act of negligence caused the patient harm
A ‘duty of care’ in medicine means a medical professional must always act in the best interest of their patient. Additionally, NHS hospital trusts owe a duty of care to the patients of doctors in their employment. It might be a specialist gynaecologist has failed to provide the expected level of care, an A&E consultant may have missed signs and symptoms which cause you serious harm if ignored, or a GP may have failed to refer you to a specialist when they should.
What types of medical negligence can occur in gynaecology?
Gynaecology encompasses any medical procedure, function, and disease specific to women, including vaginal surgery and the reproductive system, while obstetrics covers childbirth and midwifery. Specific procedures can include:
- Vaginal rejuvenation – vaginal rejuvenation, or vaginoplasty procedures are carried out to tighten the vagina, often following childbirth, or due to the natural ageing process. This procedure may be combined with other corrections to reshape the vulva or labia (vulvaplasty and labiaplasty respectively). If surgery is not done correctly, patients can be left with a bladder injury, excessive blood loss, infection, loss of sensation, and pain during sexual intercourse. Or you may be unhappy with the aesthetic appearance of the correction made, which may result from the negligent way in which the procedure was carried out.
- Vagina mesh implants – the extent of the vaginal mesh implant scandal has caused wide shock and anger across the world, leading to over 100,000 lawsuits being filed in the United States alone. Medical mesh is used to fix problems within the body such as stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP), by supporting the vagina, uterus, bowel, bladder, or urethra which commonly prolapse (fall from their normal position) during childbirth. The problem is the mesh can cause serious scarring, nerve damage, and bleeding by damaging the vaginal structures. And because the body grows and surrounds the mesh implant, it cannot be removed entirely without causing significant internal damage. Patients suffer serious pain, inability to have sexual intercourse, bleeding, infections, and tissue damage.
- Salpingectomy – during this surgical procedure, the fallopian tube/s are removed. This may be combined with oophorectomy whereby the ovaries are also removed – one or both sides may be removed. This is a major operation and if not carried out correctly can lead to significant pain, bleeding, and loss of sexual function.
- Perineal and Vaginal Tears – During childbirth, obstetric medical professionals (including midwives) must be vigilant to avoid serious perineal and/or vaginal tearing. Such tears happen when the baby’s head passes through the birth canal or because of the incorrect use of tools and instruments designed to assist the birth. Many women tear during birth, but some tears can be severe, and if missed and unrepaired, can cause incontinence (with the associated loss of dignity this brings), serious infection, and pain.
- Fitting contraception – Doctors or other medical professionals must be careful when fitting medical contraception devices. Contraception coil devices such as ‘Essure’ (which was first introduced in 2009) are placed directly into the fallopian tubes, and over time cause fibrosis, thereby causing the tubes to block – this is also called hysteroscopic sterilisation. Once blocked, eggs can no longer travel from the ovary to the womb, and conception is no longer possible. In some case, those fitted with Essure have had serious health consequences and have gone on to require a hysterectomy. Other patients have suffered perforated fallopian tubes, or the device has migrated within the body, causing damage to other structures, nerves, or tissues.
- Bacterial Vaginosis and vaginitis – Bacterial vaginosis is a common bacterial infection within the vagina, causing a grey foul-smelling discharge in some patients. However, in pregnant women, bacterial vaginosis may have serious implications including causing pre-term birth, and has been linked with conditions such as cerebral palsy and brain damage in new-born children. If not treated, women may be at greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Other reproductive organ medical procedures and problems which may lead to negligence claims include:
- Cancer misdiagnosis – including cervical, ovarian, uterine / endometrial, vaginal and vulvar cancer.
- Colposcopy – examination of the cervix and vaginal walls
- Dilation and curettage (D&C) – a procedure whereby the lining of the uterus is scraped but if done negligently may result in perforation of the womb, infection, damage to the cervix, or failure to notice a serious health condition.
- Hysterectomy – a surgical procedure to remove all or part of the uterus. Problems can occur if poor surgical technique is used or unnecessary procedures are carried out.
- Myomectomy - uterine fibroid removal;
- Wrongful abortion – such an event occurs if a patient is advised to have an abortion based on incorrect advice – or incorrect information is provided which may lead a patient to make this conclusion.
- Misdiagnosis of endometriosis
Can I bring a claim for gynaecology medical negligence?
If a medical professional involved in your gynaecological care has caused you medical harm, it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation, for special and general damages. Special damages cover your financial losses, including any medical and rehabilitation expenses you have paid as a result of the negligent act, transport and accommodation costs, and loss of earnings. General damages cover any pain, suffering, and loss of amenity, and any future loss of earning if you are unable to return to work.
To bring a successful claim, we will need to establish the medical professional looking after you owed you a duty of care, this duty was breached, and the breach caused you harm. To do this, we put together a catalogue of evidence to make the strongest possible case.
Because IBB Claims have been handling complex medical negligence claims for man years, we understand what makes the difference between a case that is robust and results in the maximum possible award, and one that fails to do so. We will request (with your consent), copies of your medical records, and where necessary, the specialist opinion of a medical expert to show that a medical professional at the same level would not have made the same mistake. It is this evidence that removes any doubt as to the culpability of the medical professional.
How long do I have to bring a claim for gynaecology medical negligence?
Claimants have three years from the date of the act of gynaecology medical negligence, to the formally lodge their claim with the court. Failure to do so may result in the claim being struck out. In some cases, there are exceptions. If you were only aware of the damage caused after the actual date of the negligent act, then you will have three years from the date of the knowledge of the injury. In addition, children who have suffered gynaecology medical negligence have three years from their 18th birthday to submit a claim.
It is important to understand the case must be formally lodged, and acknowledgement received from the court within the three-year time period. Therefore, it is recommended to seek expert guidance from a solicitor as soon as you are able to.
If you are unsure if you have a valid case, or if you have sufficient time to make a claim, call IBB Claims today. If your case for gynaecology medical misdiagnosis compensation is strong, we will offer to take your case on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, giving you the assurance we believe in the merits of your claim, and taking any financial risk off your shoulders, thereby allowing you to focus on your recovery or that of your loved one.
If you would like further information on making a compensation claim for gynaecology medical negligence, please call our office on 0333 123 9099