Refusal to pay

Medical history

A 40-year-old woman approached a consultant plastic surgeon and asked him to perform various cosmetic surgical procedures, including liposuction to her abdomen and chin. She also asked for a part of her genitalia to be reduced in size in order to enhance sexual intercourse.

The doctor examined the patient and agreed to perform the various operations, having first explained to her the possible adverse effects following surgery.

The operations were performed at a private hospital under general anaesthetic and the procedures were uneventful. The patient was discharged 48 hours later. At that time she was unable to settle her account with the hospital, the surgeon or the anaesthetist; however, she promised to do so the next day. She did not.

Non-payment of fees

One week later, the patient attended the doctor's clinic for a routine postoperative examination. She said she was satisfied with the results of the operations. However, when the doctor asked her to settle her outstanding account, she ran out of his office and was not seen by him again.

The doctor approached the patient's husband who refused to clear his wife's debts. The husband said they were separated and had started divorce proceedings. It became evident that payment was not forthcoming. The doctor and anaesthetist took legal action against the patient for non-payment of fees which amounted to over £900 plus legal costs.

Complaint

To the doctor's surprise, the patient then lodged a complaint against him at the local police station. She accused him of criminal malpractice and assault. The patient claimed that the doctor had removed her clitoris and, as a result, she had lost her ability to enjoy sexual intercourse. The MDU advised the doctor to reject the patient's demands for compensation, a sum amounting to some £125,000.

The police sought the advice of an expert witness and the patient was referred for examination to a forensic pathologist. He confirmed that there was evidence of damage to her genitals. However, as the doctor had explained, the 'damage' was scarred tissue which was to be expected following such a cosmetic surgical procedure. He denied that the clitoris had been removed or 'amputated' and said that it only appeared that way to the inexperienced eye.

The doctor was then informed by the police that they did not have any evidence against him and that they would close the file of complaint made by the patient.

Nevertheless, the patient continued to demand compensation and threatened to lodge a formal civil claim accusing the doctor of clinical negligence. At this point the MDU was informed of the patient's mental instability and, when a formal statement of claim was lodged at the district court, the MDU agreed to defend the member, rejecting all allegations of negligence and demanding that the patient be examined by another expert witness.

The outcome

However, the patient decided to take matters into her own hands when she shot and wounded the doctor. She was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and, as a result, her claim against the doctor was dropped. The MDU agreed to pay legal expenses on his behalf which amounted to £2,000.




This page was correct at publication on 01/01/2002. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.