Can I Claim Compensation For A Retained Object After Surgery?

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The Law Of... Leaving Nothing Behind

When you go into hospital for a surgical procedure, it isn't unreasonable to expect the operation to run smoothly, without complication, and for your aftercare to be of the highest standard. For the majority of patients, this will always be the case.


Sadly, medical mistakes can happen. In the latest in Simpson Millar's series of Frequently Asked Questions, Medical Negligence Solicitor, Alison Hills, looks at retained objects after surgery.

What Are Retained Objects After Surgery?

A retained object after surgery refers to a foreign object left inside a patient's body following a surgical procedure. It is classed as a medical 'never event', meaning that if the correct preventative procedures are followed, it should not happen.

A retained object is a catastrophic error, which, if left unresolved, has the potential to cause major, even life-threatening complications.

What Objects Get Left Inside Patients' Bodies?

Although a relatively rare medical mistake, objects retained in the body after surgery do occur and can refer to any item used during the course of the procedure.

This includes:

  • Swabs
  • Gauze sponges
  • Needles
  • Scalpels

Gauze sponges are the most commonly retained object.

What Complications Can A Retained Object After Surgery Cause?

A retained object is a serious medical error that once discovered requires further, urgent surgery to remove. A surgical item or instrument left inside a patient's body has the potential to cause major injury.

A sharp instrument such as a needle or scalpel blade could perforate adjacent organs or tissue, leading to internal bleeding, infection or organ failure.

Any retained item can cause infection, which can result in sepsis and death.

What Can I Do If I Had A Surgical Item Left Inside Me?

If you had a retained object following surgery, leading to further complications, you could be entitled to compensation. To find out whether you have grounds for a claim, you should seek professional legal advice from a law firm with a dedicated medical negligence department.

If a loved one passed away as a result of complications from a retained object after surgery, you may be eligible to make a claim on their behalf.

Why Should I Make A Claim For A Retained Object After Surgery?

A successful medical negligence claim for a retained object following surgery will:

  • Enable you to provide the support and ongoing care that any resulting health condition requires
  • Highlight the errors that led to the foreign object being retained inside your body, ensuring they are not repeated and cause suffering to other patients.

How Do I Make A Claim For A Retained Object After Surgery?

To make a compensation claim for a retained object after surgery, you should speak to an independent law firm, like Simpson Millar, that has a specialist medical negligence team with proven experience of handling complex claims of this nature.

They can offer you both expert guidance and representation.

How Long Do I Have To Make A Claim?

You have 3 years, from when the complications resulting from the retained object were diagnosed, to make your claim.

If it is on behalf of a child, you have until their 18th birthday to begin the claim. After they have reached adulthood, the 3 year limitation starts.

For somebody classed as a Protected Person – defined in the Limitation Act as 'incapable of managing their property and affairs due to mental disorder' – there is no time restriction on making a claim in their name.

If you are claiming on behalf of somebody who passed away as a result of complications from a retained object, you have 3 years from the date of their death to start proceedings.

What Do I Do Next?

To begin a compensation claim for a retained object after a surgical procedure, contact Simpson Millar today.





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