R4 million for botched treatment

One of the biggest claims for medical negligence in KZN settled out of court.
One of the biggest claims for medical negligence in KZN settled out of court.

Being awarded R4,3 million in damages is not good enough for a woman who had to have her leg amputated because of medical negligence at Grey’s Hospital.

Speaking to The Witness on Thursday, the woman (59) said she has had a long fight for justice and feels the award is unfair.

She said that what happened at Grey’s Hospital has changed her life drastically after she was treated for a type of skin cancer. She was given more radiation than needed on both her lower limbs which caused her to become partially immobile.

As a consequence, her right leg above the knee was amputated. And recently, she had to have an operation to the other leg to save it.

She said that when she went for radiation, she did not know anything about the treatment and trusted the doctors.

The matter had also dragged on in court, but not by her attorneys, A C de Sousa. They were wonderful, she said.

The woman, who had been living in Cato Ridge at the time, is waiting for travel restrictions to be lifted so she can relocate out of the country to where her son lives.

Pietermaritzburg high court judge Mahendra Chetty said in a reserved judgment that the claim arises from the medical negligence of the medical practitioners at Grey’s Hospital where she received radiation to both her lower limbs for a type of skin cancer.

Both her feet were radiated from her thighs to the soles, including her joints, between July 2010 and March 2011.

“This was done without skin spacing. Despite undergoing physiotherapy, her skin became shrivelled, causing her to become partially immobile”.

She then sought a second medical opinion, which confirmed in October 2012 that her knees should not have been radiated.

After initially defending this action, the MEC for Health later conceded liability. All that was left for the court to decide was the amount she should be awarded in damages.

He took into account that prior to the trial, she underwent an above-knee amputation to her right leg, with the costs of the operation having been paid for by the MEC. In addition, interim payment of R900 000 was made for her medical expenses.

The woman was 51 years old when the radiation treatment started and she turned 58 when her leg was amputated.

Her life expectancy, which has been calculated from the age of 59, is a further 12 years. Expert reports said that the events had only impacted on her quality of life. In respect of the amounts claimed under future medical expenses, the judge considered her age, the nature of the injury and the specific treatment and therapy required for an estimated 12 years.

Moving to general damages, the judge said she is now 59 years old, her limbs have been scarred and she has been compelled to undergo a below-knee amputation, with persistent pain in her leg. Following the amputation of her right leg, she also suffers from residual dysfunction in her left leg.

“There is some uncertainty as to whether the left leg would become impacted from the additional burden placed on it ...

“Perhaps most compelling in respect of the claim for general damages are the photographs which depict the devastation caused by the excessive radiation to her right limb which was eventually amputated.

“One can only imagine the excruciating pain and discomfort caused.”

Following the amputation she will have to undergo extensive habilitation and simple tasks such as getting up from her bed to go to the toilet become the most arduous tasks, he added.

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