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B.C. judge awards patient $180K after 'traumatic' eye surgery

An optometrist holds glasses in front a lightbox during an eyesight test in Bremen, Germany, on Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has awarded more than $180,000 to a man who suffered extreme pain, vision loss and facial disfigurement following a "traumatic" eye surgery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Joerg Sarbach An optometrist holds glasses in front a lightbox during an eyesight test in Bremen, Germany, on Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has awarded more than $180,000 to a man who suffered extreme pain, vision loss and facial disfigurement following a "traumatic" eye surgery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Joerg Sarbach
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A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has awarded more than $180,000 to a man who suffered extreme pain, vision loss and facial disfigurement following a "traumatic" eye surgery.

Russell Selby Anderson of Victoria underwent two elective surgeries to correct his vision and reduce his dependence on glasses and contact lenses in September 2016.

During the second procedure to repair Anderson's left eye, Dr. Gabriel Chu found the artificial lens he had inserted was defective. The surgeon removed the faulty lens and replaced it, which prolonged the surgery.

The 59-year-old Anderson left the Surrey clinic suffering acute eye pain and nausea. Three to four weeks later, he lost all vision in his left eye and subsequent clinic visits determined his cornea had been damaged and would need to be replaced.

Anderson waited a year before a cornea transplant donor was found. The procedure restored his vision but he had developed ptosis – a drooping of the eyelid – over his left eye.

Two more surgeries to repair the eyelid were unsuccessful, and while his vision was back, the eyelid now drooped enough to significantly obstruct his vision, the court heard.

In Anderson's claim of negligence against Chu, he argued the surgeon damaged both his cornea and eyelid during surgery, causing extreme pain, vision loss, emotional suffering, impaired income earning capacity and loss of enjoyment of life.

'THE SURGERY WAS TRAUMATIC'

Justice Lisa Warren found that Chu performed the surgery negligently, and did not adequately disclose the risks of corneal damage, permanent vision loss and ptosis prior to the surgery.

The surgery on Anderson's left eye was expected to take 10 to 15 minutes, but the complication with the defective lens extended the procedure to 52 minutes, the court heard.

Anderson testified that by the time Chu began removing the lens, he was in agonizing pain, yelling out and kicking his legs as he could feel the surgeon's tools cutting into his eye.

Despite the prolonged procedure, Chu did not provide additional anesthetic, but instead told Anderson to be quiet and stop moving, the former patient told the court.

"I have found that Dr. Chu's negligence caused the injuries for which Mr. Anderson claims damages," the judge wrote in her decision published Wednesday.

"Mr. Anderson has endured considerable physical symptoms and limitations as a result. The surgery itself was traumatic. He could feel sharp instruments in his eye and was subjected to excruciating pain while the defective [lens] was cut into pieces and extracted. He continued to suffer from eye pain for about a month following the surgery and became disfigured by the ptosis."

The judge found Anderson continues to suffer from facial disfigurement more than six years after the surgery, and "now lives with dry eyes, ongoing headaches, double vision, and impaired depth perception."

While the judge found in Anderson's favour in seeking compensation for pain, vision loss, emotional suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, she ruled Anderson did not prove his loss of past and future earning capacity as a result of the botched surgery.

The judge also dismissed Anderson's claims for aggravated and punitive damages, finding no evidence that Chu operated his clinic outside the professional standards of the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons.

For his pain, vision loss, emotional suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, Anderson was awarded $180,000 by the court. The judge awarded an additional $7,765.83 for Anderson's associated health-care costs.

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