Unite supports Welsh woman operated on without informed consent

Unite Legal Services has supported a Welsh woman to make a compensation claim after she alleges she was operated on without her informed consent. 

After being diagnosed with ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer, she had chemotherapy. She was subsequently seen by a breast cancer surgeon who recommended a mastectomy. The member wanted to investigate a wide local excision, or other, less invasive, procedures, but she alleges her surgeon would not discuss these alternatives. 

“My surgeon seemed to care more about his own opinion than what was best for me,” the Unite member said. “There was no reasoning with him and no alternatives were ever discussed. It was belittling to be treated as if I was hysterical, all because I wanted to discuss other treatment options.” 

The woman informed nursing staff and a junior doctor about her concerns before the surgery was scheduled to take place, and they advised her to raise her concerns with the surgeon. She then told the surgeon she only wanted a lumpectomy and wrote this in her consent form, but he told her to remove ‘wide local excision’ from the form. 

The surgeon later performed a mastectomy, removing nine axillary nodes. This went beyond the consented sentinel node biopsy. Before doing a sentinel node biopsy, and during the procedure, a blue dye must be injected into the patient. At no point did the surgeon do this, suggesting the biopsy was never the sole intention. 

The member turned to Unite Legal Services for legal guidance. The university health board denied liability, but her claim was successful due to the argument, with the support of an independent consultant breast surgeon, that the removal of the axillary nodes went beyond the member’s consent form, and that she should have been given options for less invasive surgery. 

While she has had successful radiotherapy and reconstructive surgery for her breast, the member has needed counselling for the significant mental trauma this caused her. 

“I’ve suffered years of physical and psychological anguish because of this man,” she continued. “It started to feel like no one would listen to me, but fortunately that wasn’t the case with Unite Legal Services. The team were professional and caring and I felt like I was receiving genuine help throughout the legal process.” 

John Toner, Unite legal officer, said: “Our member made a reasonable request to explore options available for less invasive surgery. The surgeon refused to listen, apparently feeling he knew what was best for her.

“We are concerned that the full range of surgery options were not fully discussed, calling into question the quality of consent. The surgeon’s actions caused our member emotional and physical trauma, so we are proud to have stood by her in her claim for compensation.”