Claim Compensation for an Anaesthesia Error during a Hospital Operation

How do you claim compensation for an anaesthesia error during a hospital operation which meant that I was able to hear everything that was going on?

Before going into the diagnostics of how to claim compensation for an anaesthetic error during a hospital operation, it is important to establish that you first have a claim for a hospital anaesthetist error which is worth your while to pursue. Although there is no doubt that medical negligence has occurred; if you could hear what was going on during the medical procedure, but experienced no trauma from the experience, it is unlikely that a claim for hospital anaesthetist negligence compensation would be successful.

‘Anaesthetic awareness’ occurs during hospital operations when insufficient anaesthesia has been delivered to a patient but, in the majority of cases, the patient is sufficiently numbed by the anaesthesia so that they can only feel the pressure that is being applied during the medical procedure – or in your case hear what is going on – and not experience any physical pain. If you have not been diagnosed with a quantifiable injury, it may be impossible to claim for a hospital anaesthetist error.

However, you might be eligible to claim compensation for an anaesthesia error during a hospital operation if it can be proven that you suffered a psychological injury (sometimes a psychological injury may not manifest for weeks or months after the event) although, in order to claim hospital anaesthetist negligence compensation, your injury will have to be diagnosed by a psychiatrist.

Therefore, the recommended course of action is to speak with a solicitor and explain the procedure you were undergoing, what it was you heard and whether you remember hearing it at the time the medical procedure was in progress or if it came back to you as a ‘recollective memory’. If the solicitor feels that you may have a viable claim for a hospital anaesthetist error, he or she will make arrangements for you to be examined by a psychiatrist to establish the level of your emotional trauma and your claim will proceed subject to the psychiatrist´s diagnosis.

Unlike most personal injury claims in Ireland, a claim for compensation for an anaesthesia error during a hospital operation is not handled via the Injuries Board, but directly with the Health Service Executive. Your solicitor would therefore have to write to the hospital at which you experienced anaesthetic awareness, obtain the notes from your surgical procedure and have them reviewed by an independent medical expert to ascertain where in the chain of events an error occurred which led to your unpleasant experience (it is not always the anaesthetist who is responsible).

Once the point of negligence is established, your solicitor will write a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the HSE, informing them that you intend to claim compensation for an anaesthesia error during a hospital operation and supporting it with the evidence of negligence compiled by the independent medical expert.

With a sufficiently strong case, the HSE should admit liability within a reasonable amount of time and without the need for you to pursue your claim in court. Once liability is accepted, your solicitor will negotiate the maximum possible settlement of hospital anaesthetist negligence compensation – provided that all the consequences of your psychological trauma are known.

Obviously this process cannot be rushed if you are to receive your full entitlement to compensation for a hospital anaesthesia error, but it would still be in your best interests to speak directly with a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.