Mediation heals relationship between surgeon and patient
The dispute arose between a consultant surgeon at a hospital and his patient.
The patient had undergone a surgical procedure for varicose veins in her leg by the surgeon. While the operation was uneventful, she complained of leg pain shortly after she was discharged from the hospital and was eventually diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). She subsequently had to undergo further treatment with mechanical thrombolysis (removal of blood clots) and anticoagulant therapy to prevent re-clotting of blood in her veins.
She alleged that the surgeon was negligent as he had missed the significance of her symptoms and had not diagnosed the DVT in a timely manner. She also alleged that he was dishonest about the complications of the DVT.
Because of this, the patient suffered long-term damage to her leg, with permanent scarring, swelling and pain.
The mediation process
Three months after the surgery, the patient contacted the hospital with her complaint. Despite attempts by the hospital and surgeon to address her concerns, the patient remained dissatisfied with the surgeon’s explanations of her condition and treatment. She felt that he was not honest and did not address her concerns or apologise. Two and a half years after the operation, she decided to take legal action against him.
The surgeon had initiated the mediation process in between the legal proceedings as he felt that the patient remained unsatisfied with his explanations and he was unwilling to continue dealing with the stressful and repeated requests she had made to him.
The mediation was conducted by two SMC mediators over four hours.
The mediators assisted the parties in acknowledging the trauma suffered by the patient post-operation and to stop looking to the past. The parties were encouraged to instead consider terms that would satisfy both their interests.
One of the mediators said: “We decided to encourage both parties to move forward. Instead of focusing on past errors or who was at fault, we reframed the mediation process to focus on dealing with the consequences of the patient’s condition, which were pain and increased treatment costs.
“It was important to acknowledge that the patient had suffered from her condition after the operation. Both parties agreed that their common goal was the welfare of the patient.”
The surgeon apologised to the patient, taking into account her anxiety, disappointment and anger. He acknowledged that he had no intention of causing her suffering and was unaware that she felt that he was dishonest. The patient noticed the surgeon’s genuine remorse as he spoke and accepted his apology at the mediation.
In addition, the surgeon also agreed to make a compensation offer which he felt was justified even though it was more than double the amount set by his medical indemnifier. The patient accepted his offer despite it being half of her claim.
Both parties’ relationship had improved very much from the start of the mediation as the patient was appreciative of the surgeon’s apology and increased compensation. The parties shook hands and patted each other on the back, glad to put this dispute behind them.