Botched Retinal Surgery Left Patient Totally Blind.
Lewis & Roberts represented a 74 year old woman for a failed retinal surgery that left our client blind. Our client had suffered a stroke about 20 years before the failed surgery that left her blind in her left eye. She experienced asteroid hyalosis ("floaters") in her right eye in her early 70's. Asteroid hyalosis is a non-emergent condition that does not require immediate treatment and has a low risk for causing further damage to the eye. Despite the low risk for future problems, the defendant surgeon advised our client that the risk to correct the problem was minimal. Surgery was then recommended to remove the floaters in her right eye. A failed surgery would leave the patient totally blind. Before the surgery, our client could read, watch TV, drive, and otherwise care for all of her daily needs. After the surgery she was blind, unable to care for herself and had to rely on her husband for assistance with all activities of daily living.
When we reviewed the medical records, we learned that during the surgery, our client experienced excessive bleeding in her right eye that could not be stopped. Repeated attempts to stop the bleeding were unsuccessful and our client's right eye filled with blood. The defendant retinal surgeon attempted to repair the eye in three subsequent surgical procedures over the next month - all without success. Our client was left with a detached retina in her right eye that made her blind. We sued the involved retinal surgeon for medical malpractice in the botched surgery - and for leaving our client blind in both eyes.
Expert retinal surgeons we retained to review the case advised us that because this patient was already blind in one eye, it was negligent to attempt surgery for floaters that were not at risk for worsening. During the deposition of the defendant surgeon, we also learned that he attempted an aggressive technique that caused his instruments to be placed unnecessarily close to the blood vessels in the eye. Once his instruments were placed unnecessarily close to the blood vessels, suction was used to remove the floaters. The suction caused the vessels to burst and blood to be pulled into the eye. The subsequent bleeding could not be stopped until after the eye filled with blood and the damage became irreversible. We alleged that not only should the surgery not have been performed, but the aggressive technique was even more negligent because of our client's condition of already being blind on one eye.
The case was complicated as our client's health deteriorated and her husband could not care for her daily needs. The couple also had no children upon which to rely for assistance. Our client became a resident of a nursing home just before the case proceeded to a mediated settlement conference. Even with our client's poor health and reduced life expectancy, the case settled at mediation for $825,000. The settlement was sufficient for our client to return home and afford home nursing care during her final years with her husband.