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Liam Coughlan, from Midleton, Co. Cork, pictured leaving the Four Courts after his High Court action for damages. Pic: Collins Courts
Liam Coughlan, from Midleton, Co. Cork, pictured leaving the Four Courts after his High Court action for damages. Pic: Collins Courts
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Man sues Cork hospital for alleged disfigurement; 'My head was stitched too close to my shoulders'

A 63-YEAR-old man who claims he suffered alleged disfigurement when he had mouth surgery as part of a cancer treatment at a Cork hospital has sued the hospital in the High Court.

Oonah McCrann, counsel for Liam Coughlan, told the court her client always had great pride in his appearance, but now feels he looks like “elephant man”.

Counsel said that people sometimes do not recognise Mr Coughlan, a carpenter and maintenance officer from Midleton. She said his life is now very different and he fears for the future.

“He can’t reach up to change a light bulb, he can’t lift heavy saucepans in the kitchen. He worked all his life and is devastated he can’t get back to work,” counsel added.

Before the surgery in 2015, Mr Coughlan was gregarious and very active, she said. Ms McCrann, instructed by Cantillon Solicitors, said it is their case an alleged unnecessary and inappropriate procedure was carried out and an alleged inappropriate repair was also carried out.

Liam Coughlan (aged 63) of Lower Aghada, Midleton, has sued South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital and the HSE over the care he received when he required mouth surgery as part of treatment for mouth cancer in 2015.

Mr Coughlan, who had an ulcer at the base of his mouth, was diagnosed with mouth cancer in January 2015.

Liam Coughlan, from Midleton, Co. Cork, pictured leaving the Four Courts after his High Court action for damages. Pic: Collins Courts
Liam Coughlan, from Midleton, Co. Cork, pictured leaving the Four Courts after his High Court action for damages. Pic: Collins Courts

He was advised he would have to have a sliver of the inner aspect of his lower jaw removed.

But it is claimed that far more extensive surgery than he was allegedly informed about or allegedly consented to was undertaken and that he allegedly was not informed that a plate and screws were to be inserted.

In February 2015, Mr Coughlan underwent a tracheostomy, a bilateral neck dissection, and removal of a part of the jaw bone. He was discharged from the hospital after several weeks.

It is claimed that his neck incision wound did not heal well and he also had to have radiotherapy.

He continued to suffer ongoing problems and it is claimed he was informed in August 2015 that a plate and screws had been inserted as part of his original surgery.

He had to have a further repair procedure in the jaw area in November 2015 and was discharged from hospital in mid-December 2015.

Mr Coughlan sought a second opinion and was admitted to a Dublin hospital in September 2016 for further operative intervention.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to treat Mr Coughlan properly and that allegedly caused him to develop an infection.

It is further claimed Mr Coughlan had to undergo numerous repair surgeries.

It is claimed he has severe restriction of shoulder movement, and head and neck movements, and is unable to hold his head in its natural position.

The claims are denied and it is contended the surgery, repair, and care were appropriate.

In evidence, Mr Coughlan said that before the surgery, “I knew how to dress up properly. I liked my style.”

He said after the surgery when he saw himself in the mirror for the first time, he said: “ I thought I was deformed, my head was stitched too close to my shoulders.”

He added: “It was like somebody got their measurements wrong.”

The case before Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy continues.