Why are hysterectomy malpractice claims so prevalent in Eastern Cape?

File photo shows the da Vinci Surgical Robot at a hospital in Pittsburgh. Pricey robotic surgery shouldn't be the first or even second choice for most women who need a hysterectomy,. Picture: AP

File photo shows the da Vinci Surgical Robot at a hospital in Pittsburgh. Pricey robotic surgery shouldn't be the first or even second choice for most women who need a hysterectomy,. Picture: AP

Published Nov 10, 2022


In South Africa, particularly in the Eastern Cape, hysterectomy malpractice lawsuits are commonplace.

Since 2014, the province has seen legal action totalling R3.4-billion in lawsuit settlements for medical malpractice at its 91 hospitals and more than 700 clinics.

According to Kirstie Haslam, a partner at DSC Attorneys, a 26-year-old lady is suing the Eastern Cape Department of Health for R3 million since it's alleged that doctors removed her uterus without her permission.

She argues that the Eastern Cape Department of Health has been the target of numerous hysterectomy malpractice lawsuits.

A hysterectomy is a gynaecological treatment in which all or a portion of the uterus is surgically removed. It has risks and problems, like with any procedure.

Haslam lists the following as some of the most typical: bladder injury, urethral damage, mechanical bowel blockage, bowel or small intestine perforation, vaginal vault granulation, and post-operative infections.

In some instances, the doctor, hospital, or a healthcare provider is accountable when a patient has a problem from a hysterectomy, explains Haslam.

She notes that a hysterectomy malpractice claim may be valid if a doctor, healthcare practitioner, or other medical expert negligently caused or assisted in the development of a problem.

She adds that failing to get the patient's informed consent or failing to disclose all relevant hazards to them could potentially give rise to a claim. A patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim if they receive an incorrect diagnosis or an unnecessary or incorrect operation.

Minor files lawsuit after unapproved hysterectomy

A woman who was trying to get pregnant learned that after a Caesarean section delivery years ago, she had received an unapproved hysterectomy.

When Bongekile Msibi gave birth to her daughter at the age of 17, she was unaware that her uterus had been removed.

A hospital doctor confirmed the hysterectomy, but asserted that Msibi had given her consent to have her uterus removed.

The doctor said that Msibi's mother signed consent, which she also refuted when Msibi contradicted this. Consequently, the Gauteng health department is being sued by Msibi.

Mother received a 100% payout for an improper hysterectomy

Marjorie Venter, 48, of Heidelberg, was left with persistent discomfort after a white plastic object was left in her abdomen during a hysterectomy, and the Gauteng Health Department was forced to pay her more than R900 000.

The medical staff at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital was found to have been irresponsible by failing to examine Marjorie Venter's wound and allowing the object to stay within her after a hysterectomy in 2013.

Woman files a lawsuit alleging improper post-hysterectomy treatment

Another woman at a private Gauteng hospital sued her surgeon after developing a septic wound after having a hysterectomy.

It was claimed that poor post-operative care led to the bacterial wound getting worse and necessitating another surgery.

It was determined that the defendant was negligent. The woman received all costs and all of the claimed damages. "You should speak with a lawyer who specialises in medical malpractice lawsuits if you've experienced an unfavourable result or damage as a result of a hysterectomy," recommends Haslam. "A lawyer will assist you determine if carelessness on the part of a medical staff member or health agency resulted in the unanticipated outcome or injury."

According to Haslam, you and your legal team must demonstrate that a healthcare professional(s) did not exercise the proper standard of care and diligence in order to succeed in a hysterectomy malpractice lawsuit.

Medical experts who can attest to the appropriate standard of care are needed as witnesses in this case.

The next step will be to demonstrate that the injury was brought on by sub-par care. Due to the complexity of this, professional attorneys are imperative, she concludes.

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