This week, members of the PIMN team attended "Life after Facial Injury" - an event organised by the Royal Society of Medicine and the charity Saving Faces. It featured talks from the perspective of patients and experts, followed by question and answer sessions.
As a personal injury and medical negligence trainee, particularly illuminating was a talk by Douglas Hammond (Senior Lecturer in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at The University of Central Lancashire). He spoke about the history of facial disfigurement treatment, and how what we previously believed to be best treatment continues to change.
For example, when someone breaks a jaw, it was and often still is common practice to remove the wisdom teeth, considered points of weakness in the jaw structure. Mr Hammond's PhD research shows, however, that by extracting the wisdom teeth, you alter the biomechanics of the mouth, resulting in the need for much heavier fixation of the jaw if the wisdom teeth are missing.
What is clear from Mr Hammond's talk is that ongoing research is vital. While facial disfigurement treatment has continued to develop, (and we heard amazing stories of recoveries throughout the day), something that was previously common practice is not always the best and only way to do things.
Mr Hammond also pointed out that patients are individuals and a one-size fits all approach to treatment doesn’t work. Bespoke treatment is needed for each case, particularly those involving facial trauma and the potentially severe and psychological impact it has on those affected.
Facial trauma is such a significant injury, affecting, as Saving Faces says, "the most socially important part of our bodies". Further research needs supporting to help combat injury and disfigurement.
The law would do well to follow the medical perspective on research and patient individuality. In quantifying injury and investigating what can be recovered, claimants are regularly grouped and generalised. The JSB guidelines make some distinction between a facial injury of a child and an older person, and between men and women, but this is very general and not suitable for something that affects victims so differently. Lawyers and medical professionals can better explore together what can be done to support those dealing with a facial disfigurement.
We are delighted to be running a conference in London on the 15th March to discuss different aspects of maxillofacial injuries including trauma, reconstructive dentistry, plastics, prosthetics, camouflage makeup, the psychiatric response and conservative management.
If you would like to be part of the conversation, please register here.