My 81-year-old father took his own life when loophole stopped him getting £117,000 payout


The daughter of a man who killed himself after a loophole prevented an insurance payout for botched dental surgery that left him in agony for years yesterday described the system as ‘not fit for purpose’.

Clive Worthington suffered nerve damage in 2008 after a procedure to replace dentures with eight implants.

His weight plummeted as he was unable to eat properly and was plagued by migraines and insomnia.

In 2019, he was awarded £117,378 in compensation and costs – one of the UK’s biggest awards for dental negligence – which he was going to use for remedial work that was not available on the NHS.

But the court-approved payout was denied by the dentist’s insurer under an obscure loophole known as ‘discretionary indemnity’.

In 2017, the General Dental Council found Dr Eszter Gambos, who was employed by UK business Perfect Profiles, to be at fault. 

The payout was awarded by Chelmsford County Court but the Dental Defence Union, which provided insurance cover for Dr Gombos, refused to pay.

Some dentists have full insurance provided by a regulated insurer with binding terms that mean patients can be confident of receiving compensation if their treatment causes them avoidable harm.

But Dr Gombos did not have full insurance and was only covered by her membership of the DDU, a dental mutual society. Such not-for-profit organisations, which are owned by their members, offer professional indemnity on a discretionary basis against the risk of dental negligence or professional conduct proceedings. This means even if a judge orders a payment, they can refuse – and not explain why.

Gina Tilly with her father Clive Worthington, who killed himself after a loophole prevented an insurance payout for botched dental surgery that left him in agony for years

Gina Tilly with her father Clive Worthington, who killed himself after a loophole prevented an insurance payout for botched dental surgery that left him in agony for years 

Clive (pictured with Gina) suffered nerve damage in 2008 after a procedure to replace dentures with eight implants

Clive (pictured with Gina) suffered nerve damage in 2008 after a procedure to replace dentures with eight implants

In 2019, he was awarded £117,378 in compensation and costs - one of the UK's biggest awards for dental negligence - which he was going to use for remedial work that was not available on the NHS (Stock image used)

In 2019, he was awarded £117,378 in compensation and costs – one of the UK’s biggest awards for dental negligence – which he was going to use for remedial work that was not available on the NHS (Stock image used)

Mr Worthington took his own life aged 81 in September last year, six years after his wife, Catherine, died.

An inquest last week found the ‘long-term consequences’ of the procedure had ‘significantly’ affected his mental health.

His daughter, Gina Tilly, 44, told MailOnline: ‘It’s [discretionary indemnity] just absolutely outdated and not fit for purpose.

‘My biggest question isn’t about whether or not it should be allowed. It’s why it hasn’t already been stopped when the Government and the General Dental Council are well aware of the dangers and have been for some time.’

Grandfather Mr Worthington, a retired wood machinist from Harlow, Essex, had travelled to Budapest in Hungary for the dental implants due to the lower costs over there for the work that was not available on the NHS.

Several follow-up operations were carried out over the following seven years to try to correct the problems, but he remained in constant pain.

He tried over-the-counter remedies and prescription morphine-based painkillers but nothing eased his suffering.

Shortly before he took his own life he even had Botox injections in his throat – recommended by doctors – in an attempt to help him swallow food.

Last week’s inquest concluded Mr Worthington’s death was the result of suicide.

Senior Essex coroner Lincoln Brookes told the hearing the ‘long-term consequences’ of the botched surgery ‘impacted significantly on his mental health and ability to cope with daily life’.

Mrs Tilly added: ‘It affected every aspect of his life – sleep, what he ate. And the social element of his life. He used to enjoy going out with friends and family but in the end it stopped him from doing things he loved.’

Clive killed himself aged 81 in September last year, six years after his wife, Catherine, died

Clive killed himself aged 81 in September last year, six years after his wife, Catherine, died

An inquest last week found the ‘long-term consequences’ of the procedure had ‘significantly’ affected Clive's (pictured left) mental health

An inquest last week found the ‘long-term consequences’ of the procedure had ‘significantly’ affected Clive’s (pictured left) mental health

Mrs Tilly described the situation as ‘madness’, adding: ‘I’ve completely lost faith in the system.’

She said she would ‘keep asking the questions’ to bring about change as quickly as possibly because she doesn’t ‘want my dad to have died in vain’.

Chris Dean, a registered dentist and managing director of the Dental Law Partnership which specialises in medical negligence claims, has described how the ‘inadequacy’ of discretionary indemnity ‘repeatedly’ comes up.

He said: ‘When these 130-year-old unregulated mutual societies decide to exercise their discretion not to pay up, as they have done 29 times for our clients in the last seven years, our clients are left with no possibility of recovering the compensation to which they are entitled.’

Last week’s inquest concluded Mr Worthington’s (pictured left) death was the result of suicide

Last week’s inquest concluded Mr Worthington’s (pictured left) death was the result of suicide

Perfect Profiles’ website states the business, based in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, ceased trading last year.

A woman who answered the phone number said no one was available to comment.

The DDU said it was ‘unable to comment on individual cases’ but added: ‘It is very rare that we are unable to offer our members support.’

However, earlier this year its website stated that in 2019 it ‘successfully defended 65 per cent of claims without making compensation claims to patients’.

The General Dental Council said: ‘Patients must be able to seek compensation in the rare event that something goes wrong in their dental care, and it is deeply frustrating that weaknesses in the current legislation caused the system to fail in this instance.

‘We encourage the Department of Health and Social Care to accelerate their work to review and update the existing provisions, which we as regulator can then apply.’

The DHSC said: ‘We are working with the sector to improve access to compensation for clinical negligence and will ensure any changes are in the best interests of patients.’

An update on the review will be published later this year, it added.

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details 



Read More

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More