06 September 2012
Medical Negligence Solicitor Paul Sankey on Prosthetic Limbs in the Paralympics: can our clients have the same?
As spectators we most of us can only look in awe at the feats disabled athletes can perform with prosthetic limbs. We see people who have been able to overcome disability to develop power, speed and stamina through a combination of natural ability, the hard and determined work of training but also high quality prostheses.
I act for a number of people who have had to undergo Amputations as a result of avoidable medical accidents. During the course of the claim I get to know them quite well, see them from time to time at home and hear their accounts of how they get on with all sorts of challenges – walking to the shops, getting into cars or using public transport, having holidays and trying to cope with work.
Two things strike me watching the Paralympias. The first is that these athletes manage to achieve a degree of mobility that most of my disabled clients can only dream of, despite grafting away at physiotherapy and doing their very best to get back to a normal way of life. All the ordinary tasks of daily life become a struggle – getting out of bed, putting on a prosthesis, getting into a cramped bathroom and trying to wash despite difficulty balancing in a confined space, managing stairs, reaching into cupboards – and the list goes on. It is always very satisfying when in the course of a claim an award of damages enables them to move to more suitable accommodation, buy the sort of equipment they need to make life easier and pay for help with chores at home.
The second is that these athletes only achieve what they do because they have really high quality prosthetics. The gulf between the sort of artificial limbs supplied on the NHS and those available privately is enormous. Good quality prosthetics are easier to put on, lighter, more comfortable, enable people to walk further and cope with terrain that no one could manage on an NHS leg. But they come at a cost. In one recent case I have claimed nearly £1/2 million for 3 different prosthetic legs for life. One is the top-of-the-range Genium (used by the athletes), another is the slightly older (but still very good) C-leg as a back-up and the third is for use when swimming. The initial outlay for the Genium is around £50,000 but there are running costs and it needs replacement from time to time so not many people can afford them.
Where a patient loses a leg as a result of a Negligent Medical Error the purpose of damages is so far as possible to put him or her back in the position they would have been in had the error not happened. No one can turn the clock back and restore the leg but damages can be used to give the claimant as much mobility as possible. My disabled clients can’t all be Paralympians but one of my goals in pursuing the claim for them is to give them as much mobility as possible. If that involves getting them a Genium, then they should have it.
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