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”.