Our team of health lawyers successfully obtained compensation for a Newcastle woman whose facial nerves were severed during a botched facelift procedure performed by a cosmetic surgeon.
The severed nerves could not be repaired leaving our client with facial disfigurement, permanent nerve damage, ongoing pain and psychological trauma. She was left with disabilities which were severe and permanent.
Our client’s injuries also resulted in her no longer being able to work in her chosen vocation as a scuba diver. Scuba diving had not only been her vocation but also her passion.
Our client – a woman in her late 40s – wanted to undergo cosmetic surgery of a type that would help to reduce the impact of ageing and give her a better defined facial shape. She suffered from poor self-esteem and hoped that the surgery would have a positive impact on her self image. She was recommended to Dr Peter Kim, a GP then practising in Cardiff on the southern side of Newcastle.
Our client explained the type of minimalist procedure she was seeking and Dr Kim recommended she undergo a mid-lift – or ‘S’ lift – a procedure designed to tighten the skin from the upper mouth to the eye. Dr Kim explained that this type of procedure was less invasive than a typical face lift with a quicker recovery period.
During the initial consultation, Dr Kim provided our client with some information regarding the procedure – the procedural steps from beginning to end and the outcome to be achieved. He also advised that there would be temporary bruising and pain which would resolve and the possibility of scarring which could be permanent. What the doctor failed to advise were the risks of facial paralysis, nerve damage and permanent facial injury. In fact, he mentioned that key nerves could be damaged in certain facial cosmetic surgery but that the particular procedure to be undertaken did not involve surgery to that part of the face where surgical error could occur.
Our client had the surgery recommended by Dr Kim a week after the initial appointment. She had been told that the surgery would take 2 hours but it in fact took 4-5 hours and was excruciatingly painful. She was partially awake – aware – during the surgery and was shocked that Dr Kim’s receptionist assisted.
After the surgery
After the procedure, our client was unable to move the right side of her face and she was unable to smile. Her face appeared asymmetrical. Distressed, she attended the follow-up consultation one week later and told the doctor of her concerns. She was advised that the problems were temporary and would resolve. A nurse at Dr Kim’s rooms made some small incisions in the operated area to remove some of the stitches.
Things did not resolve and the pain she had been told would be temporary continued and was significant. Our client sought advice from other doctors. She attended an appointment with a plastic surgeon who was critical of the result and referred her to a colleague who performed corrective surgery – namely removal of parts of the sutures that were constricting her facial nerves. After the surgery, that plastic surgeon informed our client that several facial nerves had been divided – one zygomatic and two buccal – the nerves that run from the cheekbone to the eye, nose and mouth.
The corrective procedure enabled partial reattachment of the facial nerves, but not to their proper configuration. She was told that further surgery could be attempted but improvement was unlikely.
Our client experienced severe pain during the procedure, a pain which is now a permanent part of her life. She has facial numbness, immobility, and severe disfigurement as a result of this doctor’s negligent actions. She has experienced subsequent weakness in facial muscles and difficulty breathing through one nasal passage.
Not only did this doctor cause severe physical injury to our client, he has forever impacted her mental state and quality of life. Our client was a scuba dive instructor who can no longer wear the correct equipment due to her facial disfigurement. Scuba diving was a job that she loved and a huge part of her life.
Due to this traumatic experience, our client has decreased self-esteem, post traumatic stress disorder, anxious and depressed moods, and self harming behaviours. This has led to difficulty sleeping, decreased social interactions and the need to rely on antidepressant medication.
Our case for justice
Two independent plastic and reconstructive surgeons provided opinions stating that the surgery had fallen below accepted standards of practice. Additional evidence was obtained from an independent neurophysiologist and psychiatrist together with reports from our client’s treating psychologist dealing with the physical and psychological injuries and disabilities.
No evidence was served on the issue of breach of duty on behalf of Dr Kim.
We were able to obtain a substantial settlement at mediation for our client to compensate her for her losses due to Dr Kim’s negligence. The settlement incorporated payments for her pain and suffering, the impact of the surgery from a psychological and treatment perspective, her loss of current and future wages and the costs of ongoing medical and psychological treatment and impacts to her quality of life.
Our client is one of many who have experienced harm in the face of an unregulated cosmetic medicine industry. Plastic surgeons undergo 10 – 15 years of training to undergo this type of surgery. However, any GP can claim to be a cosmetic surgeon without having specialist surgical qualifications. Those wanting to undergo cosmetic surgery need to be aware of this situation.
Failed cosmetic surgery? Let us fight for you or your loved one
If you or a loved one suspect you have experienced medical negligence before, during or after cosmetic surgery, please do not hesitate to talk to one of our caring, expert, health lawyers about the options available to you. To confidentially discuss your needs call us on 1800 874 949 or fill in the form below, and we will be in touch.
Taking legal action can also help change health care practices and hold health care professionals to account so other people do not have to experience what you went through.