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Compensation for husband left traumatised by his wife’s appearance following a negligent hysterectomy

Compensation for husband left traumatised by his wife’s appearance following a negligent hysterectomy

In a landmark case, Liverpool County Court awarded compensation to a man who said he was left traumatised after witnessing his wife’s appearance following a negligent hysterectomy. Mr Edward Ronayne said he suffered psychiatric injury as a result his wife’s shocking appearance.

Negligent surgery resulted in peritonitis

In 2008, Julie Ronayne of Netherley, Liverpool, underwent a hysterectomy at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. However, the surgery was performed negligently and Mrs Ronayne developed peritonitis, a life-threatening infection that spreads rapidly. It resulted in severe swelling across her body and Mrs Ronayne made a successful claim for compensation from the Trust responsible for the hospital, securing £160,000 in damages.

Mrs Ronayne’s husband, Edward, visited her in hospital and reported that he was left shocked by his wife’s appearance. Describing her colloquially, Mr Ronayne said his wife was “left looking like a Michelin man”, leaving him feeling tearful, angry, overwhelmed and powerless. He described his wife’s first two days in hospital as “the worst days of my entire life”.

He commenced legal action against Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust as a “secondary victim”, claiming he had suffered a psychiatric injury, leading to an “adjustment disorder”, caused by the shock of seeing his wife’s drastically altered appearance. Mr Ronayne said he had been “brought up not to complain”, but had never fully recovered from the sight of his wife in the distressing condition.

In July 2013, Liverpool County Court award Mr Ronayne £9,000 in damages. The judge hearing the case described him as an “honest and reliable witness”, who showed symptoms that “were pathological and went beyond simply the distress and anger that a man would suffer due to the near terminal illness of his wife”.

The case “moves the goalposts drastically”

The NHS Trust has now brought an appeal to challenge the decision to award Mr Ronayne compensation as a secondary victim. London’s Court of Appeal is considering the case and it could set a significant precedent as to who is able to make a claim for shock or distress following negligent action by the NHS.

The current legal position is that is that victims of nervous shock are entitled to compensation if it can be proven that the sudden first hand witnessing of a traumatic event led to a psychiatric injury.

The barrister for the NHS, Charles Cory-Wright QC, has argued that Mr Ronayne’s level of shock was not sufficient to qualify for compensation, as he would have expected his wife to look unwell when he visited her. He said that the Liverpool Court had made the award absent of any evidential basis that Mr Ronayne had suffered an actual psychiatric injury.

Taking time to consider the matter, the judges; Lord Justice Sullivan, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Beatson, have reserved their decision on the NHS’s appeal until a later date.

How to make a compensation claim for negligent surgery and medical treatment

You and your family are entitled to expect a certain standard of treatment from those providing medical assistance to you. If this treatment falls below standard you may be entitled to recover the cost of the private medical treatment needed to correct the failings on the part of those originally treating you.

If you have concerns about the medical care that you or a family member has received, please contact one of our medical negligence lawyers at IBB Solicitors. Our goal is to obtain justice for victims of the negligence by others, by securing compensation that reflects their pain and suffering, as well as related financial losses including loss of earnings, treatment costs and specialist care costs.

Please contact a member of our team on 01895 207835 or 01895 207295. Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the accident/clinical negligence and the injuries sustained to malcolm.underhill@ibblaw.co.uk and one of our team will be able to help you.