Hampstead medical negligence barrister wins £2m damages over botched surgery at Royal Free

Barrister Gerwin Samuel leaving the High Court

Barrister Gerwin Samuel leaving the High Court - Credit: Max Evans

A medical negligence barrister has won more than £2million damages from the NHS following a botched appendix operation at the Royal Free Hospital.

Gerwyn Samuel, 51, of South Hill Park Gardens, Hampstead, was cursed by a similar fate to many of his clients when he was treated at the Royal Free in May 2010.

What should have been a fairly straightforward appendectomy ended disastrously, his counsel Robert Glancy QC told the High Court.

Mr Samuel suffered the “extreme distress and fear” of what was “akin to locked-in-syndrome”, the court heard.

“He was totally paralysed but conscious,” said Mr Glancy. “He could not breathe and felt as though he was suffocating to death.”

Later, after Mr Samuel had recovered his movement, his surgical wound “burst open”.

In the following days, the barrister suffered “unbearable” pain and had to have a further operation to have a blod clot removed, the court heard.

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Even after he was discharged, the lawyer’s condition deteriorated and he had to be admitted to a private hospital for a high dose of antibiotics.

He endured horrendous pain, developed an unsightly abdominal “bulge” and had been forced to quit choral singing, the court heard.

Although he was able to return to his thriving legal practice, he had to cut his working hours and will probably be forced to retire 10 years early, said Mr Glancy.

The Royal Free Trust admitted negligence, but challenged the value of the barrister’s claim.

But the judge, Mr Justice Mitting, ordered the trust to pay him more than £2million in compensation.

He said Mr Samuel had endured “frequent, lasting, acute pain in the abdomen” as well as in other parts of his body.

Describing the barrister as a “workaholic”, he said Mr Samuel would have toiled “even harder” to develop his practice had he not been injured.

“I am satisfied that he must cut his workload now and retire at 55 at the latest,” said the judge. “If not for the events of May 2010, he could have continued at his previous sustainable rate until 60.”

Earlier, Mr Samuel told the court he was just an “ordinary litigant” who had handed over the running of his case to other lawyers.

Speaking of the prospect of early retirement, he said: “It means taking away the job, the profession, that I always loved and wanted to do and indeed enjoyed doing.”

A Royal Free spokesman said: “We would like to apologise for shortcomings in the treatment provided to Mr Samuel. We have admitted liability for the failures in his treatment and have since taken steps to ensure lessons have been learned and to improve care for our patients.

“We would like to wish Mr Samuel well for the future.”