UK Medication Errors

There is usually no defence against compensation claims for medication errors – whether the wrong medicine or wrong dosage was administered. If you have been prescribed or administered the wrong medication – or the wrong strength of medication – this is considered to be medical negligence due to a poor professional performance beneath the accepted standard of care in the medical community.

What can sometimes be difficult to establish is that an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition would not have occurred had the error not been made. If it is considered likely that an adverse event would have happened regardless of the mistake – or that the mistake caused only minimal injury – then it may not be possible to claim compensation for medication errors.

There is also sometimes the issue of “contributory negligence” when you have been prescribed the wrong medicine and you have had an adverse reaction to the medication, but continued to take it even though it was harming you. In this scenario, you may still be able to claim compensation for medication errors, but the final settlement may be reduced to reflect you own lack of care.

Because there are so many potential issues in what would normally appear to be an “open and close” case, it is in your best interests to speak with a medical negligence solicitor at the first practical opportunity. Your solicitor will have your medical records reviewed by an expert to ascertain whether “on the balance of probabilities” you suffered an avoidable injury or deterioration of an existing condition due to medication errors.

Woman Settles Claim for Post-Hysterectomy Medical Negligence

A woman from Nottinghamshire has received an undisclosed settlement of compensation after having made a claim for post-hysterectomy medical negligence.

On 13th August 2012, Tina Grace (44) from Kirkby in Nottinghamshire attended the Kings Mill Hospital to undergo a hysterectomy. The procedure appeared to be successful and Tina was discharged five days later despite concerns by her parents that she was not well enough to care for her two children who were aged 13 and 2 at the time.

Three weeks after the operation, Tina started to feel breathless and experienced a burning sensation in her leg. Tina´s parents called an ambulance and Tina was readmitted to the Kings Mill Hospital, where she was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis. Unfortunately the blood clot in her leg had broken up, travelled up to her lungs and caused a pulmonary embolism.

Tina remained in hospital for eleven days, and then had to take the blood-thinning agent Warfarin for a further six months. During her recovery Tina sought legal advice and made a claim for post-hysterectomy medical negligence – alleging that she should have been provided with surgical stockings and anti-clotting medication on her discharge from the hysterectomy procedure.

In November 2012, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust acknowledged liability for Tina´s deep vein thrombosis and accepted that, on the balance of probabilities, the pulmonary embolism would have been avoided if Tina had been provided with surgical stockings and anti-clotting medication when she was discharged from Kings Mill Hospital in August.

After lengthy negotiations, a settlement of Tina´s claim for post-hysterectomy medical negligence was agreed with the NHS Trust. Speaking after the undisclosed settlement had been negotiated, Tina told her local newspaper she feared her two children would be left motherless due to the post-hysterectomy medical negligence. “I really felt like I could have died. I was terrified and it felt like every breath I took would be my last,” she said.

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NHS Acknowledges Liability in Locked-In Syndrome Compensation Claim

An NHS Trust has acknowledged that the standard of care provided to a girl making a locked-in syndrome compensation claim fell below an acceptable standard.

In September 2011, Anna White (then fifteen years of age) was admitted to the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan for an appendectomy. The operation appeared to have gone well until Anna started convulsing during her recovery.

Anna continued convulsing to the alarm of her mother – Donna – who was by her daughter´s bedside. Donna attracted a nurse´s attention, but it was too late to prevent Anna suffering a cardiac arrest. While she was being resuscitated, Anna suffered a lack of oxygen, which resulted in brain damage and catastrophic disabilities.

Now nineteen years of age, Anna is unable to get out of bed or move from her wheelchair without specialist equipment. She cannot wash or feed herself unaided, and can only communicate by looking at letters on a board to spell out words. Her intellectual capacity is unimpaired but doctors say she faces being “locked in” her body for the rest of her life.

An investigation into what caused Anna to suffer a cardiac arrest after a routine operation found that the tube used to deliver anaesthetic to Anna during the appendectomy was not flushed out properly after it had been used. A small dose of the drug was left inside it and when fluids were administered to Anna following the surgery through the same tube, the remaining anaesthetic was inadvertently delivered into her body.

On her daughter´s behalf, Donna made a locked-in syndrome compensation claim so that Anna will be provided with the specialist care she will need for the rest of her life. Now the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust has admitted liability for the error that caused Anna to suffer such catastrophic disabilities and negotiations have started to settle the locked-in syndrome compensation claim.

A spokesperson for the NHS Trust said: “The Trust has admitted that the care it provided to Anna White fell below an acceptable standard, and has apologised unreservedly to Ms White for this. The Trust has implemented a number of changes to eliminate the possibility of this type of failing occurring in the future. Given that legal proceedings in relation to this care are ongoing, the Trust is unable to offer further comment at this stage”.

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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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London Hospital Found at Fault for Avoidable Death due to Medical Negligence

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust at fault for an avoidable death due to medical negligence.        

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman was asked to investigate the death of a 62-year-old woman at Imperial College Hospital in West London, after the unnamed patient had been discharged prematurely without the expected range of tests being conducted.

The Ombudsman found that mistakes were made in assessing the woman´s condition on her initial visit to the hospital. “Avoidable” errors were identified in her diagnosis and treatment and the patient was discharged despite the tests that were conducted showing inconclusive results.

The woman subsequently returned to the Imperial College Hospital on several occasions, complaining of abdominal pain and blood in her urine. Eventually she was admitted for an exploratory operation, but she died from blood poisoning due to sepsis before surgery could take place.

The Ombudsman was critical of the woman´s avoidable death due to medical negligence, and noted that there was a failure to treat the patient with antibiotics or to control the clotting of her blood before surgery. The investigation into the avoidable death due to medical negligence also found that the hospital´s complaints handling procedure was poor.

Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “Our investigation found that because of a series of errors at a hospital a woman lost her life. Her husband told us that he has lost his best friend just before he and his wife were due to start a new life together. We hope our investigation and the action taken by the trust will reassure him that lessons have been learnt as a result of his complaint so that others are less likely to suffer the same experience.”

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Patients Receive Overdose of Antibiotics during Cataract Surgery

Several patients at the Mount Stuart Hospital in Torquay will likely be entitled to medical negligence compensation after receiving an overdose of antibiotics during cataract surgery.

The error came to light after two patients attended the A&E Department at Torbay Hospital complaining of eyesight problems after undergoing cataract surgery on the same day in July. After an investigation was conducted into their similar eyesight difficulties, it became apparent that both patients had received an overdose of antibiotics during cataract surgery.

The Mount Stuart Hospital immediately suspended cataract surgery and launched an investigation. The nineteen patients who had undergone cataract surgery on July 26 were recalled for an immediate review and, although none of the patients needed corrective surgery, two patients were identified as “seriously harmed”, while four others “showed symptoms” of an eye injury.

The investigation revealed that the overdose of antibiotics during the cataract surgery was due to the antibiotic being diluted for sub-conjunctive use (just underneath the clear surface of the eye), but administered intracamerally (into a chamber deeper within the eye). A hospital spokesperson said that the same antibiotic would have been use for both procedures, but the concentration mix is different.

“Process failure” and “human” error” were blamed for the patients receiving an overdose of antibiotics during cataract surgery and following the investigation the consultant surgeon, the surgeon´s assistant and a circulating practitioner were suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. Cataract surgery has now resumed at the Mount Stuart Hospital.

Speaking about the unfortunate incident, Gill Gant, from the South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are satisfied that the hospital has learned important lessons from this incident and that it has acted swiftly to make the necessary changes that will ensure future safety for patients.” A statement made by the Mount Stuart Hospital said that the hospital offered its sincere apologies to all the patients that had been injured due to the consultant surgeon´s medical negligence.

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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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Court Hears Apology for Wrongful Death due to Dehydration

The Health Service Executive has publicly apologised to a family for the wrongful death due to dehydration of their mother at Cavan General Hospital.

In January 2010, Eileen Brady (65) from Crosskeys in County Cavan visited her family GP suffering from mouth ulcers. Her GP referred Eileen to Cavan General Hospital, where her mouth ulcers were diagnosed as being attributable to poor fluid intake. Eileen was admitted into the hospital to be treated for dehydration.

At the time of her referral and admission into Cavan general Hospital, Eileen was also undergoing chemotherapy for stomach cancer at a Dublin Hospital. Because of the treatment Eileen was receiving for her stomach cancer, her veins collapsed and the dehydration treatment was ineffective. However, whereas alternative procedures could have been used to treat Eileen´s condition, she died the next day from multiple organ failure.

An inquest into Eileen´s death revealed a “catalogue of errors” at the hospital. Medical experts determined that Eileen´s wrongful death due to dehydration could have been avoided if her medical records had been examined properly, if senior doctors had been consulted about Eileen´s health or if anybody had spoken with the hospital in Dublin that was providing Eileen with her chemotherapy treatment.

Martin Brady – Eileen´s son – had made a claim for compensation against Cavan General Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE); alleging that the family had suffered mental distress after his mother´s wrongful death due to dehydration. The claim was settled for an undisclosed amount – subject to a public apology being read out at Dublin High Court.

At the hearing, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard a solicitor representing Cavan General Hospital and the HSE read out a statement in which the two parties apologised for the negligent medical care which resulted in Eileen´s wrongful death due to dehydration. The HSE also apologised for the subsequent grief, hurt and stress that had been suffered by her immediate family and friends.

Another of Eileen´s sons – Aidan Brady – responded on behalf of the family. He said he hoped that both Cavan General Hospital and the HSE had learned from “the grave mistakes” made in this case “and that no other family would have to go through the trauma and distress that we have suffered”. Ms Justice Mary Irvine extended her personal sympathy to Eileen´s family before closing the hearing.

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Implanon Compensation Claims Increase due to Doctor Negligence

Doctor negligence is the main cause for the increase of Implanon compensation claims according to the manufacturer of the contraceptive device – Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD). Their comment was following a Channel 4 News investigation into why 584 women using the contraceptive device had fallen pregnant since the implant was introduced into the UK in 1999.

The news report showed that 1,607 complaints about the implant have been received by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulation Authority (MHRA) from women who have sustained an Implanon injury, and NHS Trusts have paid almost 200,000 pounds in medical negligence compensation to seven of the victims; with a further seven Implanon compensation claims currently waiting to be resolved.

The Implanon contraceptive device is made to stop women becoming pregnant for three years by releasing hormones into the bloodstream from a 40mm tube implanted into the their arm. However, if the implant is inserted incorrectly, or inserted at the wrong time of the month, the result can be an unintended pregnancy and the psychological trauma of whether to terminate the pregnancy or accept a major lifestyle change.

Not all the Implanon compensation claims have been made because of unintended pregnancies. Other Implanon injuries have been recorded; including scarring injuries when the implant has been incorrectly inserted and injuries sustained when it has proved difficult to remove an expired Implanon device. Furthermore, it is not only the manufacturers who think that doctor negligence is attributable to the Implanon injuries and unintended pregnancies.

Talking in an interview after the Channel 4 News investigation had been broadcast, Dr. Clare Gerada – chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners – said “Clearly there have been some problems. But every GP who intends to fit an implant must be competent and confident and be able to show that they have received the necessary training.” Her worry was for those women not captured in the Channel 4 News investigation that have given birth or terminated their unintended pregnancies.

As much as they are equally entitled to make Implanon compensation claims as the women who have already brought complaints against their doctors, they may be suffering alone without help or support. One woman spoken to for the news report described how her marriage collapsed and she suffered with nightmares for months after having a termination. Without making Implanon compensation claims, it is not likely that these women will have the resources to seek the professional counselling they need.

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40,000 Pounds Compensation for Fatal Emergency Misdiagnosis

The family of a Northumberland woman, who died after being misdiagnosed by an ambulance paramedic, has been awarded 40,000 pounds in medical negligence compensation.

Denise Hopper (40) from Alnmouth, Northumberland, was taken to hospital after being involved in a car crash in December 2007, in which she broke several vertebrae and suffered fractured ribs. The paramedic who treated her at the scene also diagnosed that she was suffering from dehydration, when in fact she had deep vein thrombosis. Denise consequently received the wrong treatment on her arrival at the hospital, and two weeks later suffered a heart attack and died.

Following an enquiry into her death, Denise’s two children sought legal advice and filed an action against the North East Ambulance Service for failing to demonstrate adequate clinical skills. The North East Ambulance Service admitted there had been a failure to make an accurate diagnosis, but did not admit liability for Denise’s death. Nonetheless, a compensation payment of 40,000 pounds for Denise’s children was agreed between legal representatives of the two sides.

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