How much money would I get if I made a compensation claim for an anaesthetic error that left a patient awake during an operation?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

How much a compensation claim for an anaesthetic error that left a patient awake during an operation would be settled for would depend on the level of physical trauma you experienced during the period of “anaesthetic awareness” and the psychological impact thereafter.

Anaesthetic awareness (or “unintended intra-operative awareness”) usually occurs when insufficient anaesthesia has been delivered to a patient during a general procedure but, in the majority of cases, the patient is sufficiently numbed by the anaesthesia so that they can only feel the pressure that is being applied during the medical procedure and not any pain from it.

In the most serious claims for anaesthetic awareness compensation, a patient has received insufficient analgesic to render them unconscious and is experiencing a high level of pain from the procedure being performed on them; but is unable to communicate their distress because they have been given a paralytic or muscle relaxing drug.

In addition to the level of feeling a patient experiences during a medical procedure, one of the most important aspects of a compensation claim for an anaesthetic error that left a patient awake during an operation is the psychological trauma that is sustained.

Some patients will have little or no recall of being awake during a medical procedure, whereas some will have full cognitive recollection and others may have flashbacks which develop weeks or even months later. Any psychological injury that results from being awake during a medical procedure has to be diagnosed by a psychologist before being included in claims for anaesthetic awareness compensation and, in extreme cases, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may take years to fully develop.

Despite this potential delay in assessing the full value of a compensation claim for an anaesthetic error that left a patient awake during an operation, it would be in your best interests to speak with a solicitor without delay to discuss the trauma you experienced either during or after being awake during a medical procedure.

Claims for anaesthetic awareness compensation should be made against the relevant negligent party within two years of being awake during a medical procedure and a letter of complaint should be submitted to the HSE or private medical facility within one year of the event. Provided the claim is formally made, a stay on its resolution can be made until all the consequences of being awake during a medical procedure are known and the correct value of a compensation claim for an anaesthesia error that left a patient awake during an operation can be calculated.