Australian sues over forgotten surgical sponge

Australian sues over forgotten surgical sponge

SYDNEY - An Australian woman who lived for more than 15 years with a grapefruit-sized surgical sponge sewn inside her after abdominal surgery was to sue her doctor for negligence, a report said Monday.

Helen O'Hagan claims the sponge was left in her abdominal cavity by surgeon Samuel Sakker during a 1992 colectomy, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

She suffered cramps, fevers and loss of bowel control but attributed it to the long-running health issues that landed her in hospital to begin with, and did not discover the sponge until an October 2007 x-ray.

During that time the sponge "became encapsulated in dense fibrous adhesions within a sac of fluid", the Herald said. It was removed by a different surgeon on the same day that it was found.

O'Hagan won the right to sue Sakker for negligence or breach of contract over the incident, despite the now-retired doctor calling for the case to be dismissed because she had taken so long to start legal action. Judge Leonard Levy accepted that O'Hagan was so preoccupied with her health woes, having been hospitalised 23 times since 1970, she did not initially seek answers about how the sponge had ended up inside her.

The delay was compounded by the fact that the surgeon who removed the sponge was posted interstate for the next three years and did not tell O'Hagan it could only have been left there by Sakker until last May.

The lawsuit begins this week.

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