Compensation for a Sponge Left inside a Patient during an Operation

You would only usually be eligible to claim compensation for a sponge left inside a patient during an operation if you have suffered an “adverse reaction” or a diagnosed injury due to the presence of the foreign object. If you suffered no adverse reaction to the presence of the sponge, and it was found and removed in the course of a subsequent surgical procedure, it is unlikely that a claim for a surgical sponge left behind after an operation would be successful.

However, due to the nature of the foreign object left inside you, and the danger it presents to your future health, a doctor would usually recommend that you undergo surgery to have the sponge removed – and thus have to go through an “avoidable” surgical procedure which will undoubtedly cause you some pain and from which there will be a recovery period during which you may be unable to earn an income or live your regular lifestyle.

Although this may entitle you to compensation for a retained sponge inside a patient, how much compensation you will be entitled to recover in a claim for a surgical sponge left behind after an operation is going to depend on your personal circumstances, the location of the sponge and the difficulty involved in extracting it.

There will also have to be a Health Service Executive investigation at the hospital in which the surgical mistake occurred to confirm that the sponge was left behind during your C-section operation and that it was an avoidable error which “in the circumstances and at the time” was attributable to medical negligence.

Although there is no defence against a sponge being left inside during an operation, the process for claiming compensation for a retained sponge inside a patient can be long-winded, and you should discuss with a solicitor whether it is worth your while to proceed with a claim when the complaints procedure can take many months to resolve.

To give you some idea of what you may be entitled to include in a claim for compensation for a retained sponge inside a patient, a solicitor would usually look at four main areas:-

  • What injury has been sustained, if any? Unless your doctor has identified an “adverse reaction” to the sponge being left inside after your operation, your “injury” will be just the inconvenience of a further surgical procedure to remove the sponge which, depending on how difficult it is to extract, may only be a day patient procedure.
  • Have you suffered any psychological trauma? Inasmuch as it may be distressing to discover that a sponge has been inside of you since the C-Section procedure, and that it posed a risk of an internal injury, unless you have suffered a quantifiable emotional trauma which can be supported by a psychiatrist, it is unlikely you will be able include this factor in your claim.
  • What difference has the sponge made to your quality of life? From the tone implied in your question, probably very little; although you may undoubtedly suffer some ‘inconvenience of incapacity’ following the surgical procedure to remove the sponge.
  • What expenses have you incurred because of the surgical error? Again, probably none related to the original medical mistake, although you will be able to recover any costs relating to the procedure to remove the sponge and be reimbursed for any loss of income due to having to take time off from work.

Not all of these factors will apply in every claim for compensation for a sponge left inside a patient during an operation, and there may be others which are unique to your individual circumstances. Therefore, you are advised to speak with a solicitor at your earliest opportunity to explain how you discovered that a sponge had been left in you after your C-Section procedure, what injury – if any – has been diagnosed and, if it seems likely that you are entitled to make a claim for a surgical sponge left behind after an operation, what procedures should be followed in your personal situation.

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.