Woman sued cosmetic surgery company

In July 2000, when she was 48-years-old, Maria Taylor Flynn was overweight, weighing approximately 15 stone. She saw an advertisement in a magazine for a clinic which was owned by Advanced Cosmetic Surgery Limited (the company).

The advert showed an attractive, slim, blonde young woman who was described as Helena Ashdown Shields, a manager of the company.
Ms Taylor Flynn, who at the time was contemplating marriage, telephoned the clinic to obtain information concerning its services. Shortly thereafter she received a letter arranging for her to see a Dr Alan Kingdom who was described as “our liposculpture specialist”; the appointment was arranged for 12 July 2000 at 2pm.

Ms Taylor Flynn attended for the appointment, but unfortunately Dr Kingdom did not show up. She had an interview with Ms Ashdown Shields, in the course of which Ms Shields exposed her own abdomen to demonstrate “the great advantages of liposuction”. Thereafter Ms Taylor Flynn completed a questionnaire concerning her personal and medical details.
When Dr Kingdom had still not arrived, Ms Taylor Flynn was introduced to Dr Olympia Hadden. Ms Taylor Flynn would later claim that Dr Hadden, in the course of their consultation, declared herself unfamiliar with the liposuction procedure and claimed that their discussion did not involve any consideration of the complications or sequelae from the procedure.

The liposuction procedure was arranged for 8am on 19 July 2000. It was to be undertaken by Dr Kingdom. Ms Taylor Flynn arrived for the appointment as arranged and paid the balance of the money due for the procedure, ie £2,500; she had already paid a deposit of £100. She then signed what she believed was the consent to the procedure, but would later claim that this was not discussed with her or explained to her.

She was admitted to a ward where she waited for Dr Kingdom. After some time, it became apparent that he had not turned up. Dr Hassan Sulaiman then arrived and introduced himself to her. He performed the procedure which went ahead uneventfully. Ms Taylor Flynn was kept in bed overnight because of a blood pressure problem and then discharged.

Disappointed with the outcome of the procedure, Ms Taylor Flynn commenced High Court proceedings in which she sued Dr Sulaiman and the company. Her case was based on her claim that she had not received appropriate advice concerning the procedure and the options available to her.

When the case came on for hearing in the High Court in 2006, there was a dispute between Ms Taylor Flynn and Dr Sulaiman as to the information provided to her by him prior to his performing the procedure. He maintained that there was a full consultation in which the options available were discussed, together with the complications and sequelae from these.

Giving his decision in the case, Mr Justice O’Neill said that in his view it was improbable, in the particular circumstances that had arisen, that a full discussion had taken place in which all of the options, complications, and sequelae were discussed.

Dr Sulaiman had been involved at short notice because of Dr Kingdom’s failure to attend.
The judge was satisfied that Dr Sulaiman assumed that a normal pre-procedure consultation had taken place in which all of the various relevant matters had been discussed; he was entitled to do so.

It was of course unfortunate that this is not what had occurred because of the fact that Dr Kingdom had not shown up on the previous occasion or for the procedure itself. The judge said that at the previous consultation Dr Hadden, who had substituted for Dr Kingdom, was ill-prepared for a full consultation involving a discussion of the options available, together with the complications and the sequelae.

The result of these mishaps was that Ms Taylor Flynn underwent the procedure “wholly bereft of the knowledge derived from qualified medical practitioners that would have enabled her to give an informed consent to the procedure involved”. This situation was compounded by the ill-considered gesture on the part of Ms Shields in showing her own abdomen as an example of the benefits of liposuction.

Mr Justice O’Neill was satisfied that the company had breached its contractual obligation to Ms Taylor Flynn to ensure that she had the benefit of appropriate advice before permitting her to undergo the procedure in question. Insofar as Dr Sulaiman was concerned, the judge was not satisfied that he had failed in his duty to her. He had found himself in a situation of substitution for another surgeon.

It was not negligent for one surgeon of appropriate competence to substitute for another as occurred in this case. He was entitled to assume that Ms Taylor Flynn had been properly advised in the normal way. He could not be said to have fallen below the standard of care expected of a medical practitioner of his rank and speciality.

The court awarded Ms Taylor Flynn the sum of €15,000 for damages, together with the money she had paid to have the procedure undertaken.