UK Adverse Reaction to Medication

In the UK, an adverse reaction to medication is not necessarily attributable to medical negligence. In order to claim compensation for an adverse reaction to medication, it has to be demonstrated that there was a known risk of an adverse reaction due to:

• Being prescribed a medicine for too long a time
• Being prescribed an incorrect dosage of medication
• Being prescribed a medicine to which you have a known allergic reaction
• Being prescribed two or more medicines which are known to react with each other
• Being prescribed a medicine which reacts with medication already prescribed for you

In the majority of claims for an adverse reaction to medication, the key word is “known”. If an adverse reaction could not have been foreseen, it is unlikely that a claim for compensation will be successful. It will also be difficult to successfully claim compensation for an adverse reaction to medication if you contributed to an injury or the deterioration of an avoidable condition due to your own lack of care.

There are two ways in which “contributory negligence” can negatively affect compensation claims for an adverse reaction to medication:

• If you failed to take the prescribed medicine in the quantities and at the intervals prescribed, or
• If you failed to seek medical attention when the adverse reaction started, continued taking the prescribed medication and made your condition worse.

Because of the complicated nature of compensation claims for an adverse reaction to medication, it is advisable to speak with a medical negligence solicitor at the first practical opportunity. Even if you have contributed to a deterioration in your health due to your own lack of care, it may still be possible to recover compensation from the healthcare provider who prescribed the medication to you.

£500,000 Fine for Avoidable Stafford Hospital Deaths

The now-defunct Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has been fined £500,000 for failings that resulted in four avoidable Stafford Hospital deaths.

Charges were brought against the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into four avoidable Stafford Hospital deaths – three of them attributable to falls in the hospital, and a fourth due to a patient being administered a medicine she was known to be allergic to.

Last month the NHS Trust pleaded guilty to “very significant failings” in the care of the four patients at Stafford Magistrates´ Court, who referred the case for sentencing to Stafford Crown Court. At the hearing, the court heard that three of the charges related to a failure to carry out a proper risk assessment and identify control measures to prevent falls.

At Stafford Crown Court, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave – who had previously fined the NHS Trust £200,000 for failings related to the death of Gillian Astbury in 2007 – heard extracts from relatives about the four victims. He said that the failings that caused the four avoidable Stafford Hospital deaths were attributable to the lack of a robust management system for safeguarding patients.

Sentencing the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, the judge said: “I hope today brings some closure and finally draws a line under the past, and that Stafford and Cannock Hospitals can open a new and bright chapter and become the hospitals that their dedicated staff and local communities can once again be proud of.”

As the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is no longer operating, the £500,000 fine for the four avoidable Stafford Hospital deaths will be paid by the Secretary of State for Health. The Secretary of State for Health will also be liable for the £35,517 costs incurred by the HSE in bringing the prosecution.

Speaking to news reporters after the hearing, HSE Inspector Wayne Owen issued a statement on behalf of the victim´s families. Mr Owen said: The families acknowledge the NHS Trust´s unreserved apology. The conclusion of this case goes some way towards bringing the closure that they all need”.

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Hospital Pays Compensation for a Fatal Overdose of Propofol

A Liverpool hospital has paid out an undisclosed sum of compensation for a fatal overdose of Propofol after three patients died within 48 hours of each other.

Christopher Garwell (23), Susan Chiverton (22) and Neil Murphy (18) all died within three days of each other after being admitted to the Walton Neurological Centre in Liverpool with severe head injuries in June 2010. The common link between the three deaths was that each of the patients had been administered the sedative Propofol.

An investigation was launched within hours of the third death due to concerns that the fatalities may all have been due to Propofol infusion syndrome – a rare but acknowledged adverse effect of the sedative. The investigation concluded that changes should be made to the way in which Propofol was administered and recommended stricter limits on how long coma patients should be given the drug.

Cheshire Police launched an investigation into the deaths at the neurological treatment centre, but found nothing to suggest any evidence of negligence or wrong-doing by staff, and batches of the drug were checked to see if the Propofol was in any way faulty, mislabelled or contaminated.

Despite independent enquiries finding no proof of negligence, the family of the one of the victims – Neil Murphy – claimed compensation for a fatal overdose of Propofol, alleging that Neil had died due to complications after being administered the drug. They argued that had it not been for the increased use of Propofol, Neil would have survived his head injury.

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust disputed the claim, arguing that it was “impractical to measure the weight of a critically ill ventilated patient [to determine the correct dosage of the sedative] and an estimate was used”. However, the NHS Trust ultimately admitted to a “potential contribution” to Neil´s death, and an undisclosed payment of compensation for a fatal overdose of Propofol was made to his family.

A spokesperson from the Walton centre NHS Foundation Trust made a statement in which he revealed that “a payment has been made to Mr Murphy´s family by the Trust without an admission of liability”. The spokesperson offered his condolences to the family, but added that “No further legal, disciplinary or regulatory action has been taken against the Trust or individual employees arising out of these circumstances”.

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Court Approves Settlement of Compensation for Brain Damage due to Syntocinon

Dublin High Court has approved an interim settlement of compensation for brain damage due to Syntocinon and the failure to monitor once it had been administered.

Syntocinon is the brand name of the synthetic drug oxytocin. It is frequently used in maternity wards to induce labour and accelerate contractions. For many expectant mothers Syntocinon has the benefits of reducing the length of time they spend in labour and helping the womb to contract after childbirth.

However, when Syntocinon is being administered, both mother and child have to be carefully Syntocinon is listed as one of ten “high-alert medications” because of the adverse reactions it has with with other medication and because it can escalate foetal distress when a baby is deprived of oxygen.

On 20th July 2007, Patrick Brannigan was delivered by emergency Caesarean Section at the Cavan General Hospital in a very poor condition. Prior to his delivery a CTG scan had indicated signs of foetal distress, yet his mother – Niamh – had been administered Syntocinon to accelerate her labour.

The administration of Syntocinon had the effect of escalating Patrick´s distress in the womb, due to which he was deprived of oxygen and born suffering from dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Now seven years old, Patrick has no means of communication and is confined to a wheelchair.

On her son´s behalf, Niamh Brannigan claimed compensation for brain damage due to Syntocinon, alleging that the labour accelerant should not have been administered after the CTG scan had indicated signs of foetal distress.

Niamh also claimed that there was a failure to monitor the foetal heartrate while she was in labour and that Patrick´s birth at the Cavan General Hospital was mismanaged. Following an investigation into the claims, Cavan General Hospital admitted that a “catalogue of errors” had resulted in Niamh and Patrick receiving a sub-standard level of healthcare.

The hospital issued an apology to the family and an interim settlement of compensation for brain damage due to Syntocinon amounting to €2.1 million was agreed, subject to the settlement being approval as in Patrick´s best interests by a judge.

Consequently at the Dublin High Court, the circumstances leading up to Patrick´s birth were retold to Mr Justice Kevin Cross. The judge heard that Patrick is a cheerful, good humoured boy who is cared for full-time by his parents. Judge Cross approved the interim settlement of compensation for brain damage due to Syntocinon and adjourned the hearing for three years for an assessment of Patrick´s future needs to be made.

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Man Settles Claim for Side Effects of Parkinson´s Medication

A man, who developed a gambling addiction after being prescribed dopamine agonists, has settled his claim for the side effects of Parkinson´s medication.

The man – identified only as “Mr L” – was diagnosed with Parkinson´s disease in 2004 and prescribed dopamine agonists to control his symptoms. At the time, the patient was not advised of the potential side effects of dopamine agonists – one of which is compulsive behaviour and, in particular, compulsive gambling.

In December 2008, “Mr L” was the recipient of an inheritance. In a departure from his normal behaviour, he started buying scratch cards and gambling online. As a result he lost all of the inheritance funds and fell into debt. Feeling unable to tell his wife of what he had done, “Mr L” became isolated and secretive, and his marriage suffered as a consequence.

It was only during a medication review at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in March 2010 that the possibility of compulsive gambling as a potential side effect of Parkinson´s medication was mentioned by a consultant neurologist. “Mr L” was referred to a neuropsychiatrist for help with his gambling addiction and his medication was changed.

With the help of the neuropsychiatrist and the change is his medication, “Mr L” overcame his gambling addiction. Thereafter he complained to the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust that he had not been warned about the risks associated with his medication, but he was told that compulsive gambling had not been recognised as a side effect of dopamine agonists until 2010.

“Mr L” sought legal advice and, following the discovery of a report from 2008 which had linked compulsive gambling with dopamine agonists for several years, he made a claim for the side effects of Parkinson´s medication.

In his legal action, “Mr L” alleged that if he had been warned against potentially developing compulsive behaviour when he had first been prescribed the dopamine agonists, he would have known to have been on his guard against developing such side effects. This, he claimed, would have prevented the situation in which he had suffered financial loss and in which he and his wife suffered distress in their marriage.

Presented with a copy of the 2008 report, the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admitted that there had been a failure to warn “Mr L” about potentially compulsive behaviour, and settled his claim for the side effects of Parkinson´s medication for an undisclosed five-figure sum.

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Claim for the Side Effects of Steroid Medication Allowed to Proceed

A woman´s claim for the side effects of steroid medication has been allowed to proceed after a judge ruled that the delay in making the claim was justified.

Lorna Savage (43) from Cobh in County Cork was prescribed the steroid Deltacortil by her GP Dr Michael Madigan in 1997 to treat vasculitis – a condition in which the blood vessels are damaged and cause an irritable rash.

Within a few years of taking the steroid medication, Lorna had developed Avascular Necrosis – a rare but acknowledged side effect of Deltacortril, which interrupts the passage of blood to the bones, causing the bone tissue to die and the bone collapse.

By 2001 – when she was thirty-one years of age – Lorna had both knees and a hip joint replaced, and her condition had deteriorated to such an extent that she was confined to a wheelchair. Lorna still has to take morphine to manage her pain.

After seeking legal advice, Lorna made a claim for the side effects of steroid medication against the estate of her former GP (who died in 1999), her consultant at Cork University Hospital Dr MG Molloy – who also prescribed the medication for her – and Pfizer, the manufacturer of Deltracortil.

In her claim against the two doctors, Lorna alleged that they had both acted negligently by prescribing the steroid medication for her, that both had failed to investigate her symptoms thoroughly, and that both had failed to identify that she was displaying the symptoms of Avascular Necrosis.

Lorna alleged that Pfizer was negligent by failing to provide adequate warning in the literature about Deltacortril that the steroid´s continued use could cause Avascular Necrosis. There was also no warning to advise against the drinking of alcohol while taking the medication.

The estate of Dr Madigan, the Health Service Executive (of behalf of Dr Molloy) and Pfizer each deny their liability for the side effects experienced by Lorna, and Pfizer attempted to get Lorna´s claim for the side effects to steroid medication dismissed on the grounds of “an inordinate and inexcusable delay” in bringing her claim to court.

However, at Dublin High Court, Mr Justice George Birmingham dismissed Pfizer´s application – finding that the delay was excusable due to Lorna having recently undergone multiple surgeries. Judge Birmingham said that Lorna had been unable to brief her solicitors while she was recovering from the surgeries and he listed the case for a full court hearing later in the year.

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Widow Receives Compensation for a Fatal Adverse Reaction to Medication

The widow of a man, who died from an acute renal failure after being treated for a toe infection, is to receive €45,000 compensation for a fatal adverse reaction to medication.

Margaret Devereux from Greenrath in County Tipperary claimed compensation for a fatal adverse reaction to medication after her husband – John Devereux – died in Cork University Hospital in March 2008 from acute renal failure.

Just two months previously, John had attended the South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel with an infection in a toe on his right foot. Doctors diagnosed that the infection was due to septic arthritis and prescribed John Sodium Fusidate – a medicine often prescribed for bacterial skin infections.

Not only did the infection in John´s toe get any better, John also started to develop debilitating pains in his arms and legs. He returned to South Tipperary General Hospital on 15th February, and was admitted for five further treatments of Sodium Fusidate.

While John was in the Clonmel hospital, his condition deteriorated further. He was transferred to Cork University Hospital, where he was diagnosed with rhabdmoloysis – a condition in which the muscles break down – and he died on 2nd March.

Margaret discovered that her husband´s death could have been avoided if a potential conflict between John´s existing diabetic medication and the Sodium Fusidate had been identified before it was administered.

After seeking legal advice Margaret claimed compensation for a fatal adverse reaction to medication against the South Tipperary Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE). Both parties denied liability for John´s death but, after a period of negotiation, agreed to a compensation settlement of €45,000 which Margaret accepted.

At the Dublin High Court, the settlement of compensation for a fatal adverse reaction to medication was approved by Mrs Justice Mary Irvine: who commented that it was a good settlement in the circumstances and that there would have been a “huge hill to climb to establish liability” had the claim gone to a full hearing.

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