A young Pretoria woman who had to have emergency reconstructive surgery after a trainee surgeon at 1 Military Hospital removed her entire bile duct system in an attempt to remove a gallstone has won the first round of her battle for compensation.
Acting Judge Tony Thobane ruled in the High Court in Pretoria that the trainee surgeon, who operated on Melissa Meyer in 2014, and the senior surgeon, who oversaw the operation, had been negligent and the minister of defence was liable for the damages.
Meyer was a 20-year-old student when she experienced pain and vomiting.
Her doctor sent her for a sonar, which indicated she had a gallstone, whereafter she went to 1 Military Hospital and was informed she needed surgery.
She only had the operation two months later and was discharged the next day, despite being in severe pain and vomiting constantly.
When she became so weak she could barely eat, walk or talk, her father arranged another scan and took her to a private hospital, where she had to have emergency reconstructive surgery.
Surgeon Dr Bastiaan Pienaar testified that Meyer’s entire bile duct system had been removed and her arterial system had been severely injured because the trainee surgeon did the laparoscopic operation in the incorrect region using an incorrect instrument.
The trainee said she had been following the head of surgery’s instructions. Dr Pienaar added that the head of surgery should not have let an untrained person do the operation.
Dr George Scharf, testifying for the defence force, was of the view Meyer had an “abnormal anatomy”, her injury was unforeseeable and unpreventable and the doctors had not been negligent.
But he felt she “should be compensated”. None of the doctors involved had noted any abnormality.
Thobane found that the trainee and the supervisor had been negligent. He criticised the defence force for ditching an expert who agreed with Dr Pienaar, but not disclosing this to Meyer’s legal team.