Can my father claim compensation for anaesthesia errors during operations if he was diagnosed with postoperative cognitive dysfunction three months after undergoing a general procedure?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Provided that a connection can be proven between your father´s condition and an excessive level of anaesthetic delivered to him during his procedure, it should be possible to claim compensation for anaesthesia errors during operations.

However, you should also be aware that the procedure your father underwent could have been a trigger to early onset dementia which may have happened irrespective of the level of anaesthesia given to him.
In order to determine whether or not there is cause to make a claim for an incorrect level of anaesthesia during an operation, a solicitor would first write to all the medical practitioners involved in your father´s surgery to request any relevant notes related to his procedure.

It is more than likely the case that the level of anaesthesia to be delivered was determined before the operation by assessing your father´s age, weight and general state of health, along with other factors such as whether or not he smoked or drank alcohol regularly. Even though the anaesthetic “recipe” is calculated prior to a general procedure, the anaesthetist still has a responsibility to monitor your father throughout his operation and adjust how much anaesthesia he receives if necessary.

Therefore, in order to establish negligence, a solicitor would engage the services of a medical expert to review the notes related to your father´s procedure and, if changes were required to reduce the amount of anaesthesia your father was receiving – but these were overlooked, the anaesthetist would be considered to be guilty of negligence and this would be the first stage of establishing whether your father has a claim for compensation for anaesthesia errors during operations.

The second stage is to confirm the diagnosis of your father´s doctor that your father is suffering from postoperative cognitive dysfunction and to determine whether this is a temporary injury or permanent condition. Again the services of a medical expert would be engaged to deliver a prognosis, which in turn would be the basis of calculating how much compensation for anaesthesia errors during operations your father is entitled to receive.

As you can appreciate, making a claim for an incorrect level of anaesthesia during an operation is far from straightforward, and likely to be difficult given your father´s mental health condition. It would be advisable for you to speak with a solicitor as soon as possible to expand on the question you asked in relation to your father´s treatment, and also to explore the possibility of representing your father in a claim for an incorrect level of anaesthesia during an operation as his “next friend”.