Anaesthetic Awareness Claims

When you go into hospital for a surgical procedure you place your welfare in the hands of highly trained medical professionals, who have a duty to ensure you do not come to any avoidable harm while in their care.

Medical negligence compensation claims advice

Although rare, errors which may have a detrimental effect upon a patient's ongoing health can and do sometimes occur.

When this is the case, such as in the event of anaesthetic awareness, you might require extra financial support to help you come to terms with what has happened and the consequences it has had upon your quality of life. In instances such as this, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

What is Anaesthetic Awareness?

When undergoing a surgical procedure there is every chance you will be operated on under general anaesthetic. The purpose of the general anaesthetic is to make you unconscious and relieve the pain that the combination of cutting, manipulating, and stitching would otherwise incur.

In the case of anaesthetic awareness, the medication given to you in order to achieve this will fail, meaning you wake up during the procedure and are aware of all or some of what is going on.

This could mean:

  • You remember what was happening during surgery
  • You could feel the pain as you were operated on
  • You were aware and conscious of the pain but paralysed and unable to alert anybody.

According to research carried out by the Royal College of Anaesthetists, anaesthetic awareness affects approximately 1 in every 19,000 patients. The vast majority of these cases are little more than a fleeting awareness, with the more extreme occurrences where pain is experienced being extremely rare.

Anaesthetist's Duty of Care

The anaesthetist has a duty of care to the patient. Defined as whether a medical professional can be held responsible for the care of an individual patient, it is derived from the General Medical Council's (GMCs) guidelines regarding doctors and includes:

  • A responsibility to be present with a patient when administering a general anaesthetic, or, in unavoidable circumstances, delegate the responsibility to somebody who has the qualifications, experience, knowledge, and skills to provide the treatment involved
  • Shared responsibility with other healthcare professionals, such as being available for advice and assistance during post-procedure recovery
  • Ensuring that suitable arrangements for a patient's care are in place when off duty
  • Continued responsibility for a patient in the event of any complications from the anaesthesia, until care has been transferred to somebody else

As in all cases involving medical negligence of one shade or other, failure to fully carry out this duty of care can prove harmful to the patient.

Ongoing Effects of Anaesthetic Awareness

If you have experienced awareness of some form due to the failure of your anaesthetic, you may have gone on to suffer a debilitating psychological trauma such as PTSD. This could result in a variety of ongoing after-effects such as nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia and even suicidal tendencies.

Anaesthetic Awareness Claims

In the event of suffering a physical or psychological injury because the general anaesthetic you were given failed (whether due to machine, medicine or operator error) you may be entitled to compensation.

Where negligence can be proven, a personal injury claim is a way to obtain the financial support you may require to help manage the effects of your trauma. It is also an effective method of raising awareness of the issue that has affected you, helping to ensure that mistakes are learnt from and remedied, preventing it from happening to somebody else.

In line with standard personal injury claim limitations, you have 3 years from the date of the surgery, or from when the resulting trauma was diagnosed, to make a claim for anaesthetic awareness.

Did You Wake Up During Surgery?

If anaesthetic awareness has affected you, you should seek independent legal advice to ascertain whether negligence has arisen.

With a team specialising in personal injury compensation and an extensive track record of highlighting medical negligence wherever it occurs, Simpson Millar has both the expertise and experience to ensure you have the best chance of receiving the compensation you are entitled to.


Call our medical negligence compensation solicitors today on Freephone: 0808 129 3320 or use our free, no obligation, online enquiry form to register for a call back.


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Emma Costin - Director of Complex Personal Injury - Bristol

Emma Costin
Director of Complex Personal Injury

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