By Annette Chrysostomou
For taxi driver Tasos Lambrou, whose father was a victim of negligent medical treatment, justice has finally been done, but it has come very, very late.
Nearly ten years after the family first took the doctor and clinic who treated Pantelis Lambrou to court for negligence, the supreme court has ruled the family should receive €200,000 in compensation.
But it has come too late for Pantelis who died in 2013. And it is this which makes his son Tasos so angry.
“The last few months before my father died, my mother and I cleaned him, bathed him and did everything for him,” he told the Sunday Mail. “If we had had the money then we could have paid for an old people’s home or a hospice and he could have died with dignity.”
The family deserved the money, he said, as they all suffered.
It took nearly ten years of court cases before the supreme court this week finally ordered the surgeon to pay up after he lost his appeal.
Surgeon Yiannis Ioannou had twice operated on Lambrou’s father, Pantelis, 11 years ago and in 2007 he was sued for negligence, along with the private Limassol polyclinic ‘Ygia’ where he works and is chairman of the board.
Though Lambrou’s family was awarded close to €200,000 in damages in 2011 the doctor appealed the case and it took another five years for the supreme court to reject the appeal.
What angers Tasos is not so much that the doctor made a mistake, but that he refused to pay for it.
“Yes, mistakes happen,” he said this week. “They should throw their hands up and say, ‘Yes, we made a mistake’. Instead the doctor dragged it on in court and made himself more silly. He should hang his head in shame.”
Tasos himself had a heart attack only one month before his father’s death and he is sure that it was caused by all the stress he was under due to his father’s deteriorating health and the family’s money problems.
“We are over the moon that we’ve got the money now but it is shameful that we didn’t get it before. The doctor should have been investigated by a Cyprus medical board.”
He said the fact they got compensated at all was due to finding a rare solicitor who believed in the case.
“Everybody was telling us we don’t have a chance and so many solicitors didn’t take the case,” Tasos said. “I would like to thank solicitor Costas Melas’ firm from the bottom of my heart because of all the work they did. And also because they were the only ones who believed in us while the rest treated us like liars.”
On December 1, 2005 Ioannou first operated on the then 68-year-old man who was admitted with an inflammation of the gall bladder, removing the bladder.
But the patient was back in the clinic before three weeks had passed. He had developed an abscess and had a second surgery by the same surgeon on December 21.
After the operation he was in a lot of pain and by the next day, the elderly man’s blood pressure had plummeted and he was having seizures so strong he had to be restrained.
The clinic eventually, after five days, called in an endocrinologist who carried out blood tests and found the patient had fallen into a diabetic coma with his sugar levels hitting 1,900mg. Normal blood glucose levels are within a range of 70 to 100, and anything above 1,000 is extremely dangerous and leads to death if not treated quickly.
The diabetes specialist managed to bring down the sugar level to 281, but, as Lambrou put it, “the damage was already done.”
As the specialist pointed out in court, under the circumstances and bearing in mind Pantelis’ age, his infection and the stress from his surgeries, his blood sugar should have been monitored every day after the surgery.
In his defence, the surgeon told the court he had tested the patient’s sugar levels using glucose strips which indicated all was normal. He added it was not common practice to burden a patient with more tests if they did not have diabetes.
But that, according to the endocrinologist was not sufficient enough as this method has a margin of error of 20 per cent. A more thorough approach would have been to carry out a daily blood test.
The doctor testified Pantelis’ falling into a coma is a rare development which happens in one in 1,000 cases and usually results in high blood sugar without the patient falling into a diabetic coma.
After his blood sugar levels were brought under control Pantelis was taking a number of drugs for about three weeks at the clinic and underwent yet another procedure to remove liquid from his lungs stemming from all the drugs he was taking.
He was in poor health for the rest of his life.
The money will now go to Pantelis’ four grandchildren.
“My father left Cyprus at the age of 15 and lived in the UK with his wife and two kids,” Lambrou explained. “All his life he worked hard, then he returned to retire and that turned into a nightmare. But he would like to share this with his grandchildren whom he loved very much.”