Tom Goudkamp acted for Mrs Marie Whittaker in her claim for damages against Dr Christopher Rogers, her Opthalmic specialist. Mrs Whitaker became totally blind following the elective eye surgery performed by Dr Rogers, who had informed her the surgery would ‘be a piece of cake’.
Mrs Whitaker had lost one eye in a stick accident when she was only nine years old. Despite this ‘handicap’ Mrs Whittaker enjoyed a full life. The loss of sight in one eye did not bother her.
When she was in her 40s her GP referred her to Dr Rogers to see if the appearance around the blind eye could be improved. Dr Rogers talked Mrs Whitaker into undergoing a corneal graft in the blind eye because he was very confident that he could restore her lost eye-sight.
Mrs Whitaker consented, after asking Dr Rogers about all possible risks, in particular the risk of her good eye being damaged.
Dr Rogers assured Mrs Whitaker there was no risk to the sight in her good eye. Mrs Whitaker accepted this advice and consented to have the elective surgery. However she remained nervous about it. She even asked the nurse, just before the surgery, to place a pad over her good eye with a ‘don’t touch this eye’ cross on it, just in case.
What Dr Rogers failed to warn Mrs Whitaker about was the 14,000 to 1 chance that her good eye could ‘go out in sympathy’ aka ‘Sympathetic Ophthalmia’, a risk known to all Opthamologists since WW1.
It was Mrs Whitaker’s case that had Dr Rogers warned her of this risk (leading to total blindness) she would not have consented to the operation.
The trial judge, the Court of Appeal and finally the High Court of Australia all unanimously found that in the circumstances of the case Dr Rogers ought to have warned Mrs Whitaker of the risk that she could end up blind.
The outcome of this case (called ‘Rogers v Whitaker’) radically changed doctors’ duty to warn patients of all possible risks of having surgery.
In 2009 our client, Esther, a part time accounts clerk/book keeper, who is currently aged 65 years, attended a Sydney Hospital for surgery for the removal of a cataract on her left eye. Immediately prior to the surgery, a specialist anaesthetist injected anaesthetic directly into the Esther’s eye on two occasions. Esther felt acute pain on both occasions. It subsequently transpired that the retina in her left eye had become detached, due to two needle stick injuries during the administration of the anaesthetic. Esther was subjected to six surgical procedures in attempt to re-attach the retina and save her eye, but ultimately her left eye was required to be removed. The vision in the Esther’s remaining right eye is inferior. Her physical appearance has been affected by the insertion of an ocular prosthesis in her left eye socket, which still causes discomfort and weeping from the eye socket.
Esther may require further surgery in an attempt to rectify this situation. Esther has endured years of suffering both of a physical and psychological nature, and her way of life has been heavily impacted. Court proceedings were commenced on behalf of Esther, however a negotiated settlement was reached prior to hearing. She is very happy with the amount of compensation she will receive.
Julia is a diabetic who had an accident at work and hurt her leg. Her GP, who had been managing her for years failed to properly treat her following the accident which led to amputation of her leg. Julia had to sell her 4 bedroom house after the injury and was living in terrible conditions in a small housing commission home. The first thing Julia is doing with her settlement monies is buying a lovely wheelchair accessible house which will greatly improve her quality of life.
Our client is a medical doctor. He attended a clinic in Sydney to have laser eye surgery to correct long-standing myopia. He was advised he was a very suitable candidate for laser surgery, however within a few weeks of having the surgery our client developed multiple image vision. He was subsequently found medical unfit to continue working as a surgeon in his area of specialty. There was a dispute as to the cause of our client’s vision problems – with experts engaged by the defendant not relating our client’s visual problems to the surgery. Although the treating surgeon never admitted liability, an excellent out of Court settlement was negotiated.
We acted for a young boy and his now late mother in their claim for compensation to relatives when their father/husband died whilst receiving care in a Sydney hospital. Our client’s father had previously suffered from a heart condition and received treatment from a cardiac specialist. He had some complications post-surgery that did not receive immediate attention and it was alleged this contributed to his death. The claim successfully resolved on the steps of Court.
We acted for a man, now deceased, who was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer that was not detected until age 59 when it was already at an advanced stage. He was a health conscience man who had regularly consulted his GP for check- ups but it was alleged he was not given any advice about the appropriate tests for prostate cancer for men 50 years and over. It was his case that had he been advised of the available testing he would have undergone such tests and had his cancer been detected at an early stage his prognosis would have been much better. His claim settled out of court shortly prior to his death