Man wins $255K for botched procedure to remove swallowed dentures

2020 03 04 22 13 2425 Gavel Money 400

A man in the U.K. was recently awarded 200,000 pounds (approximately $255,200 U.S.) after he was seriously injured during an endoscopic procedure to remove the dentures he had swallowed, according to news reports.

A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled on February 28 that Martin Downey, MD, a surgeon at Wishaw General Hospital, was negligent when he perforated Derek Hamilton's esophagus during a procedure to remove the dentures.

Tearing the esophagus caused the 64-year-old North Lanarkshire resident to become seriously ill, resulting in him staying in the hospital for 45 days. He also faced life-threatening conditions, including respiratory failure.

After hearing from several expert witnesses, the court found that Dr. Downey took a known and "easily avoidable risk" by removing Hamilton's dental plate through his esophagus. If the surgeon had removed the dentures another way, the patient's esophagus would not have been torn, according to the court.

Hamilton, who swallowed his false teeth while playing with his grandson in 2013, filed a civil suit against National Health Service (NHS) Lanarkshire, one of the public health systems in Scotland, claiming that Dr. Downey shouldn't have used an endoscope to remove his dentures via his esophagus. Instead, he contended that Dr. Downey should have performed a laparotomy to remove the false teeth. Hamilton initially asked for 500,000 pounds ($640,000) in damages when he filed his claim.

Dr. Downey, who performed colorectal surgery daily, admitted that he used an endoscope to remove fewer than five objects through the esophagus before 2013. He also had never removed dentures that way. Dr. Downey had assumed that his skills were transferable when he performed Hamilton's procedure.

The court found that Hamilton established his claims of causation and breach of duty after hearing the evidence. The court, however, noted that Dr. Downey is a "highly skilled and effective professional," calling this an isolated case of breach of duty, according to reports.

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