A 36-year-old man had an uneventful vasectomy performed by a consultant surgeon. A year later he presented to his GP complaining of pain in the right testicle, but no cause for this could be found at examination. Similar consultations took place three or four times over the next 12 months, culminating in the GP suggesting referral back to the original surgeon. Sixteen months after the initial operation, the patient had a sperm granuloma excised.
Nature of claim
The patient subsequently issued proceedings in the County Court, alleging that the GP should have made the diagnosis of sperm granuloma, and that he should have been referred back to the specialist at a much earlier stage. He made numerous statements about the severity of the pain as mentioned to the doctor, and about six episodes of collapse in the street.
It was the doctor's defence that he had never heard of sperm granuloma as a complication following vasectomy (indeed the MDU expert had not seen one in 40 years of practice); and that there was never anything in the patient's complaints, history or examination to suggest the need for referral at an earlier stage.
Outcome of claim
The claim went to trial three years after its first notification to the MDU and five years after the vasectomy. The Judge considered the GP to be '…a caring and conscientious practitioner…', and he relied heavily on the more than adequate clinical records. He did not find the patient '…a relaible witness….', and thought him '…demonstrably inaccurate….' and '….prone to exaggeration….'. He felt it inconceivable that the severe symptoms mentioned by the patient would not have been given due prominence by the doctor, if they had ever been mentioned. The Judge therefore found in favour of the doctor:
"There was never a time when the doctor was in a position to have referred the patient but failed to do so".
He ordered that costs should be paid by the claimant.
It became clear that the patient, who had not been legally aided, would be unable to pay the MDU's total costs of £19,000. The MDU therefore accepted a smaller contribution paid over a 12-month period.
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