A high street chain has been ordered to pay more than £500,000 damages after laser surgery wrecked an antiquarian book dealer's life. In a huge embarrassment for the chain, a judge found that its staff had failed to properly warn the woman of the risks involved in the operation and possible complications.
The short-sighted woman, who had wanted the operation with a view to joining the police force, was left with hazy vision and so sensitive to light that she had to wear dark glasses all the time, even in the shower. Living by candle light at home, her successful book dealing career had collapsed.
The judge found that the woman had paid £2,790 for an operation which 'on any objective basis she should never have had'. She had been 'enticed' and 'tempted' into a branch of the chain after seeing an advertisement proclaiming that eye surgery could be had 'from £395'. She was shocked when she was quoted more than seven times that sum, but was encouraged when an optometrist told her that he had had laser surgery himself 'and his eyesight was brilliant'.
After paying a £200 deposit, the woman was kept waiting for five hours at her first appointment with an ‘extremely busy’ ophthalmic surgeon who had seen up to 30 patients that day. The judge said that the consultation may have lasted as little as three to four minutes and that there was 'absolutely no way' in which the surgeon could have imparted all the important information she needed in that time.
When the woman arrived for her operation a few days later, she was approached by a woman with a clipboard and given a consent form to sign. She duly appended her initials without reading the form. The judge said that immediately before an operation was an inappropriate moment to ask a patient to sign a consent form.
Although the operation itself had been competently performed, the woman had not been given an adequate description of the procedure she underwent and had not been informed fully of the risks involved. Finding both the chain and the surgeon liable to compensate her, the judge said that the woman had not been placed in a position in which she could give her informed consent to the procedure.
The woman’s damages award came to a total of £569,287, including £30,000 for her 'pain, suffering and loss of amenity' and over £400,000 for her lost earnings.