Man who swallowed false teeth wins £195,000 in damages

Derek Hamilton won legal action against NHS Lanarkshire after he fell ill following a procedure to remove the plate from his body.

A man who swallowed his dental plate has won £195,000 damages after he became seriously ill following a hospital procedure to remove the false teeth from his body.

Derek Hamilton went to Wishaw General Hospital, in Lanarkshire, on January 26 in 2013 after the accident which occurred while he was playing with a grandson.

A surgeon extracted the plate through the oesophagus following an endoscopy the following day but a tear was discovered in the internal muscular tube.

A court heard that Mr Hamilton’s medical condition subsequently deteriorated rapidly with life-threatening conditions, including respiratory failure and reduced kidney function. He spent a total of 45 days in hospital.

Mr Hamilton, 64, of Cleland in North Lanarkshire subsequently raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh claiming that injuries he suffered were caused by negligence on the part of a consultant surgeon.

He originally raised a claim for £500,000, but damages were agreed at £195,000 although interest has to be added to that.

In the action against NHS Lanarkshire it was claimed that the surgeon Martin Downey, 50, should not have persisted in removing the dental plate via the oesophagus using an endoscope but should instead have performed a laparotomy – a surgical incision to the abdomen.

It was maintained that if he had done that the injuries suffered by Mr Hamilton would have been avoided.

The health authority contended that Mr Downey had acted with appropriate skill and care in the circumstances.

But a judge has now ruled in favour of Mr Hamilton after hearing evidence from a number of surgeons and consultants.

Lady Wise said: “I have found that Mr Downey took an easily avoidable risk, namely of perforating the oesophagus, that all general surgeons know is a catastrophe to be avoided.”

The judge said: “I have found that, but for the taking of that easily avoidable risk, the patient’s oesophagus would have remained intact as it was the act of removing the plate that caused the perforation.”

She said: “The pursuer (Mr Hamilton) has therefore established both breach of duty and causation.”

“I emphasise that my conclusions in this case are restricted to an isolated occasion on which Mr Downey breached his duty of care to a patient.”

“There was evidence that in his daily work in colorectal surgery he operates as a highly skilled and effective professional and it was clear that he regretted very much the poor outcome that resulted in Mr Hamilton’s case,” said Lady Wise.

The judge said that in the circumstances of the case Mr Downey could not reasonably have been satisfied that he could remove the plate safely

She said: “I conclude that on the occasion in question Mr Downey significantly underestimated the risk of perforating Mr Hamilton’s oesophagus with the sharp edges of the plate.” 

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