Spine patient sues N&N

MARK NICHOLLS A young man who says spinal surgery left him paralysed from the chest down has launched a legal battle against Norfolk's main hospital for compensation of more than £300,000.

MARK NICHOLLS

A young man who says spinal surgery left him paralysed from the chest down has launched a legal battle against Norfolk's main hospital for compensation of more than £300,000.

Barry Wright, 21, suffered from scoliosis, in which his spine twisted sideways, and underwent corrective surgery aged 15.

In a writ, the court will hear that the surgical screws were wrongly placed and pierced his spinal canal, causing irreversible neurological injury which has left him paralysed.

Now Mr Wright, of Redfern Close, Norwich, is claiming damages from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after the operation on July 31, 2001.

He is now severely disabled, and this has caused him depression, the court will hear. He says the trust was negligent and that if he and his mother Gillian Roberts had been properly warned of the risks of surgery, he would not have gone ahead with the operation.

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Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Robert Crawford discussed the risks of the operation with him and his mother and told them the surgery did carry a risk of spinal cord damage and paralysis, but that he would have monitoring in place so that the operation could be halted if there were any signs of cord involvement, according to a High Court writ.

Reassured by this, Mr Wright and his mother agreed to the surgery, but the screws inserted were incorrectly placed, the court will hear.

The trust wrote claiming that cord injury is a known risk of this surgery but Mr Wright argues that if he and his mother had been told of the level of risk, they would almost certainly have refused surgery.

He claims that doctors negligently failed to: provide neuro-physiological monitoring during surgery, failed to carry out a wake-up test when signals from his legs dropped, misplaced the screws at his 7th and 6th thoracic vertebrae, and failed to establish the safe destination in bone of each screw.

If he had not gone ahead with the operation, he would not have suffered any neurological impairment, he says.

Mr Wright is seeking an order for a lump sum payment for his past losses, and either a lump sum, or periodical payments for his future financial losses for the rest of his life, increasing annually.

He will have to rely on others for daily care and welfare for the rest of his life, he says. He is also seeking an order allowing for his damages to be increased if his condition deteriorates.

A hospital spokesman said: "We have apologised to Mr Wright and accepted that the injuries could have been avoided. Patients are informed in advance of the risks of treatment through our consent procedures and this type of complication is both very rare and regrettable.

“We do regret that it has taken Mr Wright's representatives six years to lodge a claim on his behalf and we will work closely with them to ensure a fair settlement for his on-going needs."

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