Claim for Swabs Left in a Patient during an Operation

Is it too late to make a compensation claim for swabs left in a patient during an operation if the operation in which the mistake occurred was more than two years ago?

Although the Statute of Limitations in Ireland allows only two years to make a claim for swabs left in a patient during an operation, the time limit for claiming compensation for a retained swab found after an operation does not begin until the date on which you discovered the surgical error had been made.

Therefore, if you only found out recently that a swab had been left behind after a medical procedure, the ‘Date of Knowledge’ from which the Statute of Limitations applies will be the date on which the discovery was made, and you will have two years from that date in which to initiate a compensation claim for a swab left behind after surgery.

However, before you consider making a claim for swabs left in a patient during an operation, there are several points that you may wish to take into consideration:-

  • The way in which the presence of a retained swab was discovered will have a bearing on your eligibility to claim for swabs left in a patient during an operation. If the retained swab was found and removed during a subsequent operation – and no injury had been sustained due to its presence – there will be no grounds to make a claim for compensation even though the fact that negligence has occurred will be undeniable.
  • If the retained swab was identified during a scan or ultrasound you recently underwent, your doctor is likely to recommend its removal by surgery due to the potential for future health issues – even though you may not yet have experienced any ill-effects from its presence. A compensation claim for a swab left behind after surgery will be possible, but only for the inconvenience of incapacity that will be caused by the operation to remove the swab.
  • Although there is no justifiable defence against such a surgical error, the HSE will investigate your claim for compensation for a retained swab found after an operation to determine how the surgical error occurred. Only once their investigation is complete will the HSE consider making an offer of compensation.

As injuries due to swabs left in a patient may take a considerable time to manifest – especially ‘gossypiboma’ type injuries – the ‘Date of Knowledge’ mentioned above could be many years after a surgical error has occurred. However, it is recommended that you discuss your eligibility to claim compensation for a retained swab found after an operation with a medical negligence solicitor as soon as possible.

The solicitor will need to know what procedure you originally underwent (when the swab was left inside), when and how it was discovered and the level of any injury that has occurred due to the surgical error. If no injury has been sustained, but your doctor has advised you to have the swab removed, the solicitor will discuss the consequences to you of further surgery and what this means to you.

If it is established that you may have a claim for swabs left in a patient during an operation which is worth your while to pursue, the solicitor will advise you of the steps that have to be taken in your particular circumstance to recovery your full entitlement to compensation for a retained swab found after an operation.



This is an Information site only – if you feel you have a potential claim, you should discuss your situation with a solicitor registered with the Law Society of Ireland.