Why won´t the Injuries Board assess a claim for a wrong arm amputation against the HSE?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, the Injuries Board will not accept an application to assess a claim for a wrong arm amputation if it is a civil action “arising out of the provision of any health service to a person, the carrying out of a medical or surgical procedure in relation to a person or the provision of any medical advice or treatment to a person”.

The provision is there because claims for medical negligence compensation are usually determined by medical opinion as to whether an injury that has been sustained could have been prevented “at the time and in the circumstances” had a more appropriate course of action been taken. There is no doubt that, in a claim for amputating the wrong arm, a terrible and avoidable mistake has occurred; but nonetheless the Injuries Board label the mistake as an incidence of medical negligence and will decline your application for assessment.

The way to proceed with a claim for a wrong arm amputation is to speak with a solicitor. The solicitor will listen to why one of your arms needed amputating, write the formal “Letter of Complaint” to the HSE (if you have not made a complaint already) and also write to each of the persons involved with your treatment to discover how the tragic accident occurred.

It may not necessarily be the surgeon who performed your operation who was at fault for amputating the wrong arm, if he was provided with the wrong instructions either by one of his medical support team or by the hospital administration, and it will be necessary to find out where the medical mistake was made before being able to proceed with a claim for compensation for having the wrong arm amputated.

Once the reason for the wrong arm being amputated is determined, your solicitor will then send a “Letter of Claim” to the HSE – informing them that you are making a claim for a wrong arm amputation and supporting it with the evidence that has been collected. In the circumstances of a claim for amputating the wrong arm, the HSE are likely to acknowledge their liability fairly quickly, but your solicitor will wait until his or her own assessment of your claim is completed before negotiating a settlement of compensation for having the wrong arm amputated.

It is important that you are adequately compensated for the emotional distress of having the wrong arm amputated as well as for the changes you will have to make to your lifestyle to accommodate having both arms amputated. Even when you are equipped with prosthetic limbs, life – both physically and emotionally – is likely to be far more difficult for you than if you had only one arm amputated, and your claim for a wrong arm amputation should reflect this.

Therefore, it is advisable to speak with a solicitor as soon as possible. This will enable you to explain the changes to your life you have already had to make, the emotional trauma you have experienced and the financial impact this terrible mistake has meant to you before your focus is diverted by having to undergo a further medical procedure to amputate the “correct” arm.