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Boy Who Put Shard of Glass in His Ear Succeeds in Clinical Negligence Claim

As many parents are only too well aware, children have an unfortunate tendency to put foreign objects into their ears. The consequences can occasionally be serious and, in one case, a little boy who sustained permanent hearing loss following negligent medical treatment won the right to substantial compensation.

The five-year-old boy was taken to hospital by his parents after he inserted what was at first believed to be a small plastic brick into his right ear. It later turned out to be a sharp piece of glass, probably a fractured bead. A number of unsuccessful attempts were made to extract the object before it was eventually removed in an emergency operation.

He was later found to have suffered a perforated ear drum and damage to the chain of three tiny bones in his middle ear. Despite corrective surgery, the end result was permanent hearing loss, requiring him to wear a hearing aid. A clinical negligence claim was subsequently launched against the NHS trust that bore responsibility for his care.

Ruling on the case, the High Court found, on the balance of probabilities, that the damage had arisen whilst a registrar was attempting to manipulate and remove the object. The likelihood was that a surgical instrument – a wax hook – came into direct contact with the delicate chain of bones, causing them to dislodge.

The Court found that the registrar had probably employed an inappropriate technique, or used excessive force, or both. He did not stop attempting to remove the object as soon as he should have done. If not agreed, the amount of the boy's compensation would be assessed at a further hearing. In the meantime, the Court awarded him £13,035 in interim damages.

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