Clinical negligence in anaesthesia in England and Wales

Understanding Clinical Negligence in Anaesthesia: A Focus on England and Wales

Anaesthetic practice, like any other speciality of medicine, may lead to adverse outcomes particularly if the required standard of care is not met. Let us look at clinical negligence in anaesthesia within the jurisdiction of England and Wales, detailing its causes, consequences, prognosis, and quantum.

Clinical Negligence in Anaesthesia

Clinical negligence in anaesthesia, the breach of duty of care by anaesthetists resulting in harm to the patient, may be caused by a number of breaches. For instance, an incorrect dosage or type of anaesthetic drug could lead to severe physiological reactions, ranging from anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) to malignant hyperthermia (a severe reaction to certain drugs used during general anaesthesia). Inadequate monitoring of a patient’s vital signs during procedures may result in preventable complications like hypoxia, which can have far-reaching consequences for the patient’s health and quality of life.

Improper patient positioning could lead to nerve injuries or pressure sores. Similarly, failure to acquire and document comprehensive preoperative consent after fully informing the patient of the procedure’s risks and benefits could be deemed a breach of duty. The anaesthetist’s role extends beyond the operating theatre. Negligence in postoperative care, such as inadequate pain management or failure to identify and manage anaesthesia-related complications promptly, can also lead to substantial harm.

The effects of clinical negligence in Anaesthesia

The effects of clinical negligence in anaesthesia are varied and profound. Physical harm, such as nerve damage, cardiovascular complications, or in extreme cases, death, can result. A neglected facet of this issue is the psychological impact on patients. Conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder can develop following incidents like anaesthetic awareness or inadequate anaesthesia, where the patient regains consciousness during surgery.  Although this is a rare event, occurring somewhere between 1 in 15,000 and 1 in 19,000 cases, the experience may lead to significant psychological trauma.

Prognosis in cases of anaesthetic clinical negligence

The prognosis of psychological harm arising from anaesthetic awareness varies from person to person and may depend on the nature and severity of the harm sustained. While some issues, like minor nerve damage or allergic reactions, might resolve with time and appropriate treatment, others, such as severe brain damage due to hypoxia, can lead to lasting impairment. The latter may necessitate long-term rehabilitative treatment, modifications to living arrangements, or continuous professional care.

Damages in cases of anaesthetic clinical negligence

Quantum, the monetary sum awarded in clinical negligence cases, is assessed based on several factors. These include the severity and duration of the injury, the patient’s age, lost earnings, and past and future expenses for care, treatment, and necessary aids. Non-economic damages for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity also weigh in on quantum determination.

The role of the expert witness

The role of the expert witness in anaesthetic clinical negligence is important and necessary.  Anaesthetic clinical negligence may lead to significant harm with wide-ranging implications for patient safety, healthcare practice, and legal recourse.

What makes a good expert witness?

A good expert witness combines technical expertise with effective communication skills. Our forensic document examiners possess not only deep knowledge in their field but also the ability to convey complex information in a clear and concise manner. They understand the importance of presenting their findings and opinions in a way that is accessible to judges, juries, and other legal professionals, aiding in the comprehension and acceptance of their analysis.

Why use Expert Court Reports?

A reliable anaesthetist expert witness should come with years of experience as well as specific competencies to act as an expert witness.  Look for someone who has established expert witness experience.

How quickly can you provide a report?

At Expert Court Reports Ltd, we understand the time pressures on legal professionals.  We recognise that litigation is subject to defined timescales, and for this reason, we will be as flexible and accommodating as we are able to be.  We pride ourselves on not promising work that cannot be reliably delivered within a given timescale.  The quality of our experts’ evidence is subject to review and scrutiny.  All expert reports are subject to a detailed and robust proofreading process to ensure that our expert evidence is accurate and expertly formatted.

How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?

Expert Court Reports delivers expert witnesses and medico-legal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies, including the police, probation services, prisons, third-sector organisations, and private clients.

To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form.