Compensation for a Foreign Object Left in a Patient

I was told that it is not always possible to claim compensation for a foreign object left in a patient. Is this true?

It should be possible to make a claim for compensation for a foreign object left in a patient, although whether it will be worth while doing so depends on the individual circumstances of each case.

In order for a personal injury claim to be made, the following criteria must be satisfied:

  1. A personal injury must have been sustained
  2. The injury must have been caused by negligence of at least one third party
  3. There must have been a failure in a duty of care

Technically, being required to undergo a second surgical procedure to remove a foreign object left inside the body by a surgeon could be classed as a personal injury, as the removal of the object requires a surgical cut to be made. That injury will have been caused by negligence of the surgeon for leaving an object in a patient, which would also constitute a failure in a duty of care. However, a compensation claim for a foreign object left in a patient may not be worth while pursuing if no injury or ill health has been suffered as a result of the surgical error, unless medical complications develop as a result of the foreign object being removed.

If the foreign object was discovered while having a routine x-ray or other diagnostic test for an unrelated health problem, you will no doubt be alarmed and angry about a foreign object left inside the body by a surgeon. You may want an explanation about how such a mistake was allowed to occur, or an apology from the surgeon, HSE or hospital for placing your health in jeopardy.

Whether or not you decide to pursue a compensation claim for a foreign object left in a patient is your decision, and one which it would be perfectly acceptable to make if you have suffered from an infection, developed health complications from the presence of the foreign object, or have suffered financially as a result of undergoing a second operation. Making a claim would also ensure that there are repercussions for the error, which could help to prevent further mistakes from being made in the future.

In response to your question, there is one factor which will prevent a claim for an object left in a patient after surgery from being possible, and that is the time that has elapsed between the discovery of the retained object and when the decision is made to make a claim for an object left in a patient after surgery. There is a fixed window of opportunity to make a personal injury claim, which is two years from the date of knowledge of a surgical error.

The best course of action to take to ensure that the right to claim compensation for a foreign object left in a patient is not lost - and to find out whether it will be worth while making a claim - is to contact a solicitor at the first practical opportunity to discuss taking legal action. A solicitor will take the necessary steps to ensure that a claim can be made before it is time barred.

A solicitor will access to your medical records to establish the degree to which you were injured and, after consultation with an expert doctor, you will find out if a claim is possible under the circumstances and amount of compensation you stand to recover. You can then make a decision about taking legal action to recover compensation for the error.