Family sues over 'negligent' surgery

The family of a Lancashire teenager left paralysed for life after spinal surgery are suing Royal Preston Hospital for medical negligence, it has been revealed.

Laura May, now 15, of Kirkstall Close, Chorley, was left paralysed from the chest down after being operated on by orthopaedic surgeon Roger Battersby Smith at the hospital.

Her parents, Christine and William, are now taking Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to the High Court in London, seeking substantial damages.

The May family, represented by specialist medical negligence solicitor Diane Rostron of Linder Myers incorporating Rostrons Solicitors in Lytham, will seek to prove that the injuries suffered by Laura – now wheelchair-bound – were the result of negligence.

Her parents became concerned about the development of a curvature on her spine – scoliosis – when she was 11 years old.

Scoliosis is a condition that can occur during adolescence. If it becomes severe and is not treated, it can cause problems later in life.

After approaching their hospital trust for guidance, Laura's parents agreed surgery was necessary and she had the operation in February 2005.

The family's legal team believes from the evidence they have gathered that the surgery was negligent in that the surgeon did not use any system of "spinal cord monitoring" which raises an alarm should surgery to the spine go near the spinal cord.

They also believe that insufficient use was made of an imaging system to help the surgeon know precisely where he was working in relation to the spinal cord.

The solicitors believe this meant that he was effectively "working in the dark" and allege that this led to damage to the spinal cord during the creation of a hole for a fixing screw or during the screw-in.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust claims doctors took all reasonable care in Laura's treatment.

The High Court hearing, expected to last five days, is continuing.

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