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1828 saw the first recorded case of medical negligence. In England in 1828, Thomas Wakley, a reporter, was the defendant in a libel (defamation) claim brought by Bransby Cooper, where it was alleged Mr Cooper butchered his patient during what was a routine operation for the era.

At this time, anaesthesia was not used in surgical operations. Mr Stephen Pollard, the plaintiff, presented himself for a lithotomy (removal of a gall bladder stone). Unfortunately for Mr Pollard, the surgeon was incompetent.

Treatment of gall stones was fairly rudimentary at this time. If the stone could not be broken into pieces (by hammering the stone into smaller pieces from the body external) the usual practice was to take the patient and restrain their legs, create an incision at the perineum and then enter the body to locate and remove the gall stone by hand. We will save you the gory details from this point but will say that the surgeon struggled for over 30 minutes to attempt to find the stone, which to his credit he eventually did. For reference, the surgery would usually have taken no more than 5 minutes for a skilled surgeon.

The surgeon, somewhat upset by Mr Wakley’s reporting, sued for libel for the sum of £2000 (or perhaps about $55,000.00 in current terms).

For the jury to reach a verdict in the Trial, the facts turned to whether Mr Cooper was an incompetent Doctor, or whether the events that occurred were within the appropriate standards of care for the time.

Mr Cooper was successful (barely) and was awarded £100.

See Cooper v Wakley, Court of King’s Bench (Westminster), December 12, 1828 if you would like to continue reading those gory details of the surgery.

If you have suffered a medical mishap, you too may have a claim for medical negligence.

In Queensland, you have three (3) years from the date of your injury to bring a claim for damages in the Courts. You also only have nine months to serve an initial Notice of Claim to the Doctor or Hospital who caused the injury, otherwise the claim might not be accepted for delay. It is important to get legal advice early otherwise you may lose the opportunity to seek compensation.

There are other requirements and time limits for bringing a medical negligence claim. For more information about medical negligence claims read the information available on our website or call one of our injury lawyers on 07 3816 9555.