Kerim Ucar with his mother Durna and father Selcuk Ucar three years ago. (Christina Kuhaupt)
Kerim Ucar stands with his parents before the regional court on Domsheide. The civil negotiation set as the settlement date has just ended. The meeting lasted for a good two hours this Wednesday, and there is also a result that the Bremen native with his parents Selcuk and Durna Ucar still has to think about, as he says. The 21-year-old is to receive 90,000 euros in compensation for pain and suffering from the health insurance association of the Health North (Geno) for the removal of a healthy kidney instead of his spleen. Both sides have three weeks to withdraw their consent.
“Nobody can imagine what this fatal operation means for me and how I am now,” said Kerim Ucar to the WESER-KURIER after the end of the trial. “Today I still suffer from constant stomach aches, and there are also psychological problems that put a strain on my life.” Not a day goes by without having to struggle with the consequences of the operation.
The story of the court hearing began almost exactly three years ago: On October 5, 2017, the then 18-year-old was supposed to have his spleen removed at the Mitte hospital. The man from Bremen suffers from a congenital disease known as spherical cell anemia, which caused the organ to become enlarged. The operation led to the fatal mix-up: the spleen remained in the body – it was removed a little more than a year later during a follow-up operation in another Bremen hospital – instead the surgeon removed one of the two kidneys. The incident made headlines nationwide.
The family filed a criminal complaint against the doctor; in an expert opinion commissioned by the public prosecutor’s office, there was talk of a gross malpractice. An expert opinion previously commissioned by the lawyer of the Ucar family with the medical service of the health insurance companies described the malpractice as a “never event” – an event that must not happen. The doctor was sentenced to a fine of 30,000 euros in criminal proceedings last year.
When it came to the settlement date for the amount of compensation for pain and suffering, it did not initially look as if the two parties – the Ucar family as the plaintiff and the municipal hospital association Gesundheit Nord (Geno) – could agree. The family’s lawyer, Hans-Berndt Ziegler from Marburg, demanded a sum of 325,000 euros in compensation for his clients. Geno, represented by lawyer Ralph Meyer in Hagen, had initially offered 50,000 euros.
Judge Andreas Helberg outlined the further course of the civil proceedings should the parties fail to reach a settlement. This could take several years; Among other things, because in view of the health impairments such as abdominal pain and psychological problems, which the plaintiff describes as a result of the operation, new reports would have to be obtained from experts.
At the same time, Helberg referred to the expert opinion from Munich, which spoke of a “gross treatment error”. “It makes the court stunned that such a malpractice could happen.” It was a “really big bump”. For the young man from Bremen, the loss of a healthy kidney means “a difficult fate” and the prospect of having to live with this burden. Nevertheless, an amount of compensation for pain and suffering must be compared with other similar cases and decisions in order to remain within a reasonable range. The amount of 325,000 euros demanded by the plaintiff does not correspond to this.
At the end of the roughly two-hour negotiation, the lawyers agreed in a settlement on compensation for pain and suffering in the amount of 90,000 euros. With the conclusion of the comparison, possible future damage that results from the removal of the healthy kidney should also be replaced. Both parties now have three weeks to accept the settlement – or to go back to court.
The Ucar family said after the trial that they were “disappointed” in not having been successful with their original request. The Ucars lawyer emphasized that he would strongly recommend that the family accept the settlement, “otherwise the proceedings will probably drag on for several years”.