In a shocking case of medical malpractice, an Irish woman who went into the hospital for what should have been a routine procedure instead ended up losing eight pints of blood. She is likely to be besieged with chronic pain for the rest of her life.

A routine procedure gone wrong

On 4 Jun 2002, Gina Van Amersfoorth had gone to what was then the Portlaoise General Hospital (now the Midland Regional Hospital) for a diagnostic procedure to determine why she was unable to get pregnant.

Consultant obstetrician, Dr John Corristine had inserted a surgical instrument – a trocar – into her abdomen to allow telescopic examination while the 50-year-old was under anaesthetic. Yet, in a fateful turn of events, the inserted trocar tore a major artery and punctured a vein in Van Amersfoorth’s pelvis, causing significant bleeding which resulted in the loss of at least eight pints of blood. The expertise of a vascular surgeon had been necessary to salvage the damage.

Thus, the Portlaoise woman had to be placed on ventilation and life support for two days. She was hospitalised for six days in total.

Lawsuit claims that hospital had failed to take proper precautions

Van Amersfoorth of Grenville, Portlaoise, Co Laois, then sued the now-retired Dr Corristine – who had been attached to the Midland Regional Hospital – for damages sustained during the botched procedure. She also pressed charges against the Health Service Executive (HSE), which was then known as the Midland Health Board.

The lawsuit claimed that medical personnel had neglected to take proper precautions for the safety of Van Amersfoorth and to thoroughly ensure that all equipment used during the lapasoscopy was in good working order.

It was then alleged that the trocar had been introduced away from the mid line, and too deeply into Van Amersfoorth’s pelvis, so that it impacted the posterior pelvic side wall at least twice, causing the damage to her artery and vein.

Significant impairment of patient’s life to be compensated generously

The defendants all admitted responsibility for the botched operation, the scar, and the initial pain and suffering that Van Amersfoorth underwent. However, they disputed that the other claimed consequences, such as Van Amersfoorth’s chronic abdominal pain, were related to the incident.

Presiding judge Justice Kevin Cross, nevertheless, indicated his acceptance of the expert evidence that Van Amersfoorth’s agony, as a result of the bungled procedure, is likely to persist for the rest of her life, and possibly, even worsen. He ruled that €855,793 (SGD1,525,434) in damage should be paid to Van Amersfoorth on account of the significant impairment of her life from the catastrophic operation.

While many other plaintiffs in other cases have been more damaged than Van Amersfoorth, it would be entirely inappropriate in any way to minimise what she has suffered, he said. MIMS

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