Archive for March 2015

Out of Court Settlement of Compensation for Fatal Medication Errors

A family from Tyne and Wear have agreed to a settlement of compensation for fatal medication errors that contributed to the death of a mother of two.

Jean James (75) was a resident of the Maple Lodge Care Home in Sunderland who suffered from Alzheimer´s disease and had limited mobility due to severe arthritis. In December 2013, she developed a chest infection which quickly deteriorated, and she was admitted to the Sunderland Royal Hospital on December 24th.

Over the next few days, Jean´s condition improved as she responded to treatment, but on January 8th she suddenly died due to complications caused by deep vein thrombosis. The inquest into her death found that Jean had died of “natural causes contributed to by neglect”, and the coroner found four areas of concern in the care that Jean had been provided with.

According to the coroner´s report, the doctor responsible for Jean´s admission had been interrupted numerous times and had consequently failed to prescribe medication to eliminate the risk of blood clots. This oversight was not identified in any review by a clinician or nurse and, when a query was raised by the pharmacy, it was not properly communicated.

After hearing that the systems in place at the hospital to deal with human errors were inappropriate, Jean´s family claimed compensation for fatal medication errors against the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, who admitted that there were failures in Jean´s care and agreed an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with the family.

Speaking after the settlement of compensation for fatal medication errors had been announce, Jean´s husband John James said: “Although we have now settled the case with the NHS Trust, this was never about the money, we just wanted the hospital staff to take responsibility for what happened. We are relieved that changes have been made and we just hope that by taking legal action it will ensure that lessons are learned and that others will not suffer from similar failures in future.”

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Husband Makes Claim for the Misdiagnosis of Cervical Cancer

The husband of a woman who died after giving birth to the couple´s second child has made a claim for the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer

Louisa Foster from Granborough in Buckinghamshire had a routine smear test at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 2008 and was told that the results were normal. In 2010, she underwent IVF treatment to help with the conception of her second child.

Shortly after her son was born on 1st December 2010, Louisa started to experience abdominal pain and discomfort, but – on returning to Stoke Mandeville on several occasions – was told that her symptoms were attributable to the Caesarean Section she had or due to an infection.

Depending on which junior doctor she saw, Louise was prescribed antibiotics or told to go home and take a paracetamol; and it was not until April 2011 that she finally saw a specialist who diagnosed her with an advanced cervical tumour.

Louisa underwent two years of treatment for the cancer at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford – including intensive chemoradiotherapy and a hysterectomy – but she never recovered from the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer and died in June 2013 aged 35.

After seeking legal advice, Louisa´s widow – Graeme – made a claim for the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer. In his claim, Graeme alleged that doctors ignored the fact that his wife was losing weight rapidly or said that it was due to her breast feeding her son.

Graeme said that the couple had persevered to get a correct diagnosis because their first child had been born by Caesarean Section, and Louisa knew that the symptoms she was experiencing were not right. He hopes that by making a claim for the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer against the Buckingham Healthcare NHS Trust, the mistakes that were made in Louisa´s treatment will not be repeated.

Graeme told his local paper: “It has been a long, long haul and taken a lot out of us all, but now on behalf of our children and other women who may be going through the same situation I’m hoping to get to the bottom of what happened.”

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Family Settle Claim for a Wrongful Death due to a Failure to Monitor Oxygen Levels

A family from Wolverhampton has settled its claim for a wrongful death due to a failure to monitor oxygen levels for an undisclosed amount.

On 25th June 2011, Hilda Seagrave (74) from Wolverhampton in the West Midlands was admitted to the New Cross Hospital after suffering a fall in her home. Hilda – who was already being treated with oxygen therapy for a clotting disorder that was affecting her lungs – was diagnosed with a spinal injury and placed in a ward.

Overnight, Hilda was given an oxygen cylinder, rather than being connected to a piped oxygen supply; and, when the oxygen in the cylinder ran out at around 6:00am in the morning, Hilda died from a cardiorespiratory arrest.

An inquest into Hilda´s death discovered multiple failings with the standard of care Hilda received, after which her family sought legal advice and made a claim for a wrongful death due to a failure to monitor oxygen levels.

A subsequent investigation by the family´s solicitor found that Hilda should have been admitted to a high dependency unit because of her existing condition, that she should have been provided with a continuous supply of oxygen and been monitored hourly.

Despite there being substantial evidence to support the claim for a wrongful death due to a failure to monitor oxygen levels, the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust contested responsibility for Hilda´s death; but, when court proceedings were issued, agreed to an out-of-court settlement without an admission of liability.

Speaking after the settlement of the claim for a wrongful death due to a failure to monitor oxygen levels Hilda´s daughter Sue said, “We trusted that staff caring for our mother whilst she was in hospital would give her the very best quality of care available and to discover after she had passed away that her oxygen supply had run out during the night and not replaced is simply unacceptable”.

“We are disappointed that the Trust has not accepted responsibility formally for what happened to our mother – I hope that after what happened to my mother, all staff at the hospital receive all the training they need to ensure that these mistakes can never happen again.”

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Birth Injuries Compensation Case Resolved at Supreme Court

A landmark birth injuries compensation case against the NHS has been resolved at the Supreme Court in London in favour of a mother and her severely disabled child.

Sam Montgomery was born at the Bellshill Maternity Hospital on October 1st 1999, having been deprived of oxygen during his delivery. Sam´s problems started when his shoulder became trapped in his mother´s birth canal after the delivery of his head. Sam suffered shoulder dystocia and – after a 12-minute procedure to release his shoulder – he had to be resuscitated.

The deprivation of oxygen during the release procedure caused Sam to suffer brain damage and he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Now, at age 15, Sam has limited communication skills and still suffers from the nerve damage he sustained during his delivery – which affects his shoulder, arm and hand.

On Sam´s behalf, his mother – Nadine – made a claim for medical negligence compensation against NHS Lanarkshire. Nadine alleged in her claim that her consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist – Dr Dina McLellan – had failed to warn her of the risks associated with a natural birth when Nadine was a petite woman with Type 1 diabetes.

When the birth injuries compensation case went to the Outer House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the court heard that women with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to have bigger babies and that Nadine had expressed concerns during her pregnancy about delivering the baby safely. The court also heard that Nadine was not given the option of a Caesarean Section birth despite a CTG trace showing the size of her son.

In their defence of the birth injuries compensation case, lawyers representing NHS Lanarkshire said that the consultant´s duty to advise the risks involved in a natural delivery would have been triggered if there was a high probability of a grave adverse outcome. As there was only a 9%-10% of shoulder dystocia occurring, Dr McLellan chose not to advise Nadine of the risks.

Despite Nadine testifying that she would have chosen a Caesarean Section procedure over a natural birth if she had been advised of the risks, the Outer House of the Court of Session found in the consultant´s favour, as did the Inner House when Nadine appealed the verdict. Undeterred, Nadine took her birth injuries compensation case to the Supreme Court in London, where Dr McLellan told the court that, in her view, it was “not in the maternal interests for women to have Caesarean Sections”.

The Supreme Court judges disagreed with the consultant and said that social and legal developments “point away from the relationship between the doctor and patient based on medical paternalism”. The judges ruled that Dr McLellan was wrong to put her personal views ahead of the course of treatment that Nadine underwent and ruled that a doctor has a duty of reasonable care to ensure that patient is aware of any material risks involved in any recommended treatment.

Lord Kerr and Lord Reed – the judges who delivered the Supreme Court´s verdict – commented “There can be no doubt that it was incumbent on Dr McLellan to advise Mrs Montgomery of the risk of shoulder dystocia if she were to have her baby by vaginal delivery, and to discuss with her the alternative of delivery by caesarean section.”

The Supreme Court awarded Nadine £5.25 million compensation for the birth injuries that Sam had suffered and said it would be a mistake to view patients in the modern world as “uninformed, incapable of understanding medical matters or wholly dependent upon a flow of information from doctors”.

The decision by the Supreme Court is significant as it acknowledges a patient´s right to decide upon the level of risk they wish to take given all the information available. It means that patients will have to be provided with information about possible alternative treatments and their risk factors before being considered to have given their “informed consent” prior to undergoing a medical procedure.

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Claim for Hydrocephalus due to Medical Negligence Resolved in Court Hearing

The High Court in Ireland has resolved a claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence in favour of a seven year old girl who suffered brain damage.

When Ava Kiernan from Duleek in County Meath was three months old in April 2008, she developed the symptoms of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) – a rapid expansion of her head´s circumference and bulges appearing as “soft spots” around her skull.

Ava was examined by a public health nurse, who failed to notice the expansion of the girl´s head or recall her for a further examination four weeks later. An incorrect measurement of Ava´s head in September 2008 also disguised the symptoms of hydrocephalus – despite concerns being raised by her mother, Ruth.

As a result of the failure to identify the symptoms of water on the brain, Ava developed permanent mental and physical disabilities. On her daughter´s behalf, Ruth Kiernan made a claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence against the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The HSE contested the claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence, and the case went to the High Court in Dublin, where it was heard over three weeks by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

Judge Cross found in Ava´s favour, ruling that if Ava had been recalled four weeks after the initial measurement of her head circumference, or if the measurement of her head in September 2008 had been conducted correctly, water on the brain would have been suspected and Ava would have been referred to a specialist.

The judge said that the public health nurse´s failure to act was “materially causative” to Ava´s mental and physical disabilities and he adjourned the claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence in order that an assessment could be conducted of Ava´s future needs to determine an appropriate compensation settlement.

Update June 2015: Ava´s case was reconvened on 9th June, when an interim settlement of compensation amounting to €2.4 million was approved by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty. The interim settlement of Ava´s claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence is for the next ten years, after which her condition will be re-assessed.

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Bereaved Family Claim Compensation for the Failure to Diagnose Epiglottitis

A bereaved family from Southend are claiming compensation for the failure to diagnose epiglottitis following the death of a thirty-seven year old man.

On 5th March 2014, Steven Jackson attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Southend Hospital, after a sore throat he had been experiencing for several days deteriorated to such an extent that he was finding it difficult to swallow and was having difficulty breathing.

The out-of-hours doctor that examined him prescribed Steven over the counter medication and sent him home. A few hours later, Steven´s condition deteriorated further and his lips had turned purple. His fiancée – Shelley – summoned an ambulance and paramedics treated Steven with oxygen and put him on a nebuliser.

Steven responded after an hour of treatment in his home, and the paramedics determined that he had a virus and was not ill enough to be taken to hospital. A few hours later, Steven suffered a cardiac arrest and died due to epiglottitis – an inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis behind the root of the tongue – a condition which, when accurately diagnosed, is treatable with antibiotics.

Following Steven´s tragic death, a complaint was made to East of England Ambulance Trust regarding the failure of the paramedics to take Steven to hospital.  The chief executive of the Ambulance Trust issued a letter of apology to the family, accepting that paramedics should have spotted an underlying condition and should have taken Steven to hospital for acute assessment and treatment.

Steven´s family have sought legal advice and are claiming compensation for the failure to diagnose epiglottitis. Steven’s brother-in-law Simon Watkins told his local newspaper: “We are absolutely adamant we won’t let this lie. You see more and more of these circumstances, where clinicians have let people down and to me it seems nobody does anything about it.”

“The ambulance trust has stated in its letter that failings were made including a failure to identify four separate indicators of sepsis and a failure to take a sufficient history of previous hospital attendance which led to a failure to appreciate the severity of the situation – and the decision not to take Steve to hospital.”

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Family Want Investigation into Heart Attack Death due to an Ambulance Delay

A family from Staffordshire have instructed medical negligence solicitors to investigate the heart attack death due to an ambulance delay of a 59-year-old man.

On Saturday 19th April 2014, Kathryn Corbin called the emergency services to request an ambulance for her husband, Jeff, who was suffering from chest pain and a shortness of breath. When paramedics arrived, Jeff was diagnosed as having suffered a panic attack and – advised that there was a six hour wait at the local A&E department – he declined to be taken to hospital as a non-emergency case.

The paramedics left, advising Jeff to see his GP after the weekend, but the following day Kathryn again summoned an ambulance as Jeff was gasping for breath and in intense pain. The ambulance took seventy-five minutes to arrive – during which time Jeff had suffered a fatal heart attack, and he was declared dead on arrival at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

An expert cardiologist who gave evidence at the inquest into Jeff´s death said that had Jeff been taken to hospital and received treatment when an ambulance was first called on the Saturday morning, there was a 95% chance that his condition would have been diagnosed and treated. The cardiologist added that had the ambulance arrived within 30 minutes when it was called on the Sunday, there was a 50% chance that Jeff would have survived.

Coroner Ian Smith recorded a verdict of death by natural causes; but he also commented that the paramedics who attended Jeff on the Saturday morning made the wrong decision by not taking him to hospital as an emergency – following which, Jeff´s family sought legal advice and instructed medical negligence solicitors to investigate the heart attack death due to an ambulance delay.

Commenting after the inquest, Kathryn – from Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire – said: “My children and I have been left completely devastated after losing Jeff – last year we should have celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. He was the heart of our family, a loving dad and husband and losing him has left an irreparable hole in our lives”.

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Settlement of Claim for Birth Injuries due to an Undiagnosed Antepartum Haemorrhage

A judge at Dublin High Court has approved the final settlement of a compensation claim for birth injuries due to an undiagnosed antepartum haemorrhage.

Marlis Flood had a medical history of antepartum haemorrhaging prior to attending the Rotunda Hospital on March 30th 2006 complaining of an abdominal pain. Marlis – who was near her delivery date – was admitted into the hospital, but discharged three days later.

On April 3rd, Marlis returned to the hospital again complaining about her pain, but was sent home – only to return the following day when her pain got worse. An examination revealed that Marlis was dilated, she was admitted and her daughter Caoimhe was born later that evening.

However, due to an alleged failure to address Marlis´ concerns about abdominal pains when she had a history of antepartum haemorrhaging, and an alleged avoidable delay in delivering her child, Caoimhe suffered hypoxia in the womb and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was born.

For the first year of her life, Caoimhe had to be fed via a tube and will she will require full-time care for the rest of her life as she is a spastic quadriplegic. On her daughter´s behalf, Marlis made a claim for birth injuries due to an undiagnosed antepartum haemorrhage against the Rotunda Hospital.

Liability for Caoimhe´s birth injuries was denied; but in 2012, the hospital agreed to a €1.3 million interim settlement of compensation without an admission of liability. This week, the claim for birth injuries due to an undiagnosed antepartum haemorrhage returned to Dublin High Court for a final settlement of the claim to be approved.

At the approval hearing, Mr Justice Bernard Barton was told the circumstances leading up to Caoimhe´s birth and the consequences of the hospital´s alleged negligence. The judge approved the €2.6 million final settlement of Caoimhe´s claim for birth injuries due to an undiagnosed antepartum haemorrhage, saying that he was very relieved for the Flood family that the claim had finally and completely been resolved.

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