The minister of defence has been ordered to pay over R2.8 million damages to a young Pretoria woman who had to undergo emergency reconstructive surgery after a trainee surgeon at 1 Military Hospital removed her entire bile duct system while attempting to remove a gallstone.
Judge Daisy Molefe this week ordered the minister to pay this amount as well as the legal costs and the fees of various experts to a woman from Valhalla.
The court order followed a settlement after Judge Tony Thobane earlier this year ruled that the trainee surgeon who operated on the patient in March 2014 and the senior surgeon who oversaw the operation had been negligent. Thobane ruled that the defence minister was liable for the damages she suffered.
The woman, then a 20-year-old university student, had pain and was vomiting when her doctor sent her for a sonar and told her she had a gallstone. After that she went to 1 Military Hospital and was told she needed surgery.
She was operated on two months later and discharged the next day, despite being in severe pain and constantly vomiting.
When she became so weak she could hardly eat, walk or talk, her father arranged for another scan and took her to a private hospital, where she had to undergo emergency reconstructive surgery.
Surgeon Dr Bastiaan Pienaar testified that the patient’s entire bile duct system had been removed and her arterial system severely injured. This was because the trainee surgeon did the laparoscopic operation in the incorrect region using the incorrect instrument, he added.
He said the operation took an inordinately long time and the hospital’s head of surgery “had no business allowing an untrained person to do the operation”.
The general practitioner who did the operation said she had been following the head of surgery’s instructions.
Dr George Scharf, who testified for the defence force, was of the view that the patient 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 noted any abnormality.
Thobane found that the woman could not have given informed consent for the operation and that the trainee and her supervisor had been negligent.
He criticised the defence force for ditching an expert who agreed with Dr Pienaar, but not disclosing it to the woman’s legal team.