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Professionals, Beware of Giving Gratuitous Advice!

posted 2 years ago

A lady had her first-born child under epidural anaesthesia and required an episiotomy. This was sutured by a junior doctor, and she was detained in hospital for 48 hours to help establish breastfeeding.

Five days after delivery, on a Friday afternoon, she felt very uncomfortable and noticed a foul smelling green discharge from her vagina. That evening she was visited by her sister-in-law, a midwife, and asked her about the discharge. Her sister-in-law told her it was very unusual and if it persisted over the weekend she should go and see her General Practitioner first thing on Monday morning.

The patient became very uncomfortable throughout the Saturday, and by the Sunday evening she had a heavy discharge, was having intermittent fever and sweating.

She went to her General Practitioner on the Monday morning and was noted to be flushed, in severe pain with a high temperature. The doctor immediately sent her back to the Accident and Emergency Department, where she was examined and a retained swab was located in her vagina. This was removed, and she was admitted to hospital for intravenous antibiotics. She had to stop breastfeeding, which upset her greatly. Some of the sutures in her vagina became loose because of the infection, and part of her episiotomy wound opened up again. This was treated with dressings and took approximately two months to heal completely.

An action was commenced against the hospital for the retained swab. However, the sister-in-law, who was not employed by the same hospital, was cojoined as, had she given correct advice on the Friday evening, the plaintiff would have been immediately referred to hospital, the swab seen and removed before she developed a generalised infection.

The lesson for those in the professions is to be very careful when giving advice within their area of expertise, even in a social setting. This raises a duty of care, and if the recipient follows the advice and untoward consequences occur, the professional would be regarded as having breached that duty, and an action in negligence for any losses may succeed.

For fast and effective screening of all potential medical negligence cases, contact Peyton Medico Legal Services now on +44 (0)28 87724177 or email


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