Recent Clinical Negligence Cases
Investigation into the death of a 14 year old girl during an MRI scan
A teenage girl with autism died following an MRI scan under general anaesthetic. This has sparked an investigation by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) into how scanning under general anaesthetic for patients should be reasonably adjusted for those with autism or learning disability.
What is the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch?
The HSIB was set up as an independent organisation with a mandate to “conduct independent investigation of patient safety concerns in NHS-funded care across England.” They investigate and make recommendations with an aim to improve healthcare systems and processes, to reduce risk and improve safety.
The findings in this case
An inquest found that the child in this case had been under the care of three specialist consultants for a period of 9 years. She was not referred for the investigation of any underlying disorder by a geneticist, despite her parents requesting this on two occasions and; there being a relevant centre near her home. Her underlying condition which caused her death, cardiomyopathy, was therefore undiagnosed.
What is cardiomyopathy?
The NHS’ definition of cardiomyopathy is that it “is a general term for diseases of the heart muscle, where the walls of the heart chambers have become stretched, thickened or stiff. This affects the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body”.
It is a condition which is usually inherited and is thought to affect 1 in 500 people in the UK.
Autism, learning disability and medical assessments
The HSIB study found that children “with autism, learning disabilities and/or learning difficulties often find clinical environments distressing, which may be reflected in their physiological observations. This may result in diagnostic overshadowing, where problems such as autism (or a medical condition) are attributed as the cause of other new problems, rather than considering other underlying causes, thereby leaving other co-existing conditions potentially undiagnosed.”
This was especially relevant in this case where the child presented to the hospital on the day of her MRI with a high heart rate and raised blood pressure. This was attributed to her distressed presentation, even though at the time of the test she was calm. During the MRI scan there were four occasions where she needed intervention due to changes in her heart rate.
Following the HSIB investigation, the following recommendations were made to change the way medical practitioners handle similar cases:
There should be a development in the role and competency framework for learning disability liaison nurses, to ensure that people with learning disabilities and autistic people receive optimal care which respects and protects their rights.
A system should be developed for sharing care plans for patients with autism, learning disabilities or learning difficulties to enable reasonable adjustments to be made e.g. a standardised care passport
Our specialist medical negligence solicitors act around the treatment of people with autism. In one particular case a 26 year old man died due to suffering a hypoglycaemic attack. He lived alone and he was unable to manage his diabetes and had suffered over 100 hypoglycaemic attacks but the mental health services did not communicate or liaise with the general medical services regarding his care.
Caught between two different medical services their view was that he was capable of managing his own condition. In reality this was not correct, his autism caused him to mismanage his diabetes, which sadly led to his early death.
Failure to diagnose acute myocardial infarction
Medical negligence solicitor Stephanie Prior instructed to bring a claim against North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust on behalf of the dependents and the estate of her husband, the deceased. The claim was in respect of treatment received by the patient in July 2015.
A 42 year old male and father of two young children attended North Middlesex Hospital A&E department in the early hours of the morning. He reported a four day history of central chest pain radiating to the right side of his chest and right shoulder. IK had an ECG done which revealed sinus tachycardia and some abnormality. He was triaged and a further ECG was performed along with blood tests.
He was seen by a registrar who diagnosed him with exacerbation of asthma. He was discharged home with antibiotics, steroids and an inhaler. He continued to experience shortness of breath when he returned home. Despite not being able to sleep, he insisted on going into work later that morning. He collapsed at work that afternoon and upon arrival, the paramedics confirmed his death. A post mortem report stated the cause of death as
1a. Acute myocardial infarction,
1b. coronary artery atherosclerosis.
The Defendant admitted liability but disagreed on issues pertaining to quantum – specifically the deceased’s life expectancy and future earnings.
After negotiation, damages awarded: £250,000.
Injury Caused During Treatment
Our medical negligence solicitors were instructed to pursue a claim against Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Trust for injury caused during treatment received whilst our client was under their care in 2014.
Our client (DB) was diagnosed with a full rectal prolapse that required surgery in January 2015. The operation was performed in March and was successful in terms of the prolapse. However, DB’s left ureter was accidentally cut during this operation and this went unnoticed. No note of this was made in the operation notes and no mention of it was made post-operatively.
Two days after the operation DB had a high temperature and following investigations it was discovered that DB had a chest infection. In fact, DB was suffering from a urinary tract infection but fortunately, the antibiotics she was given were also effective against this. DB began to complain of abdominal pain four days after the surgery but doctors attributed this to her wounds and DB was discharged home when the infection seemed to subside.
DB attended Chelsea & Westminster Hospital A&E department with a 5 day history of urine incontinence on 12 April 2015. She was discharged in order to attend an outpatient appointment with her surgeon but returned to A&E three days later as she had increasing abdominal pain. The incontinence issue had resolved by this point. It was noted that she had a distended abdomen and the working diagnosis at the time was one of suprapubic peritonitis and sepsis. Blood tests revealed infection and a further CT scan showed there was an abscess in the pelvis that was subsequently drained. Further investigations followed as DB continued to have a high temperature and a nephrostomy was performed. DB underwent further procedures over the next few months, including the insertion and removal of a ureteric stent, the replacement of a mid-ureteric stent and a ureteric re-implantation in September 2015.
Following her discharge DB felt low in mood and attended her GP in January 2016. In February DB reported bladder problems. She developed recurrent urinary tract infections. DB was anxious as she was concerned that the stent, inserted in the ureteric re-implantation procedure in September 2015, had not yet been removed. The stent, which should have been removed within 6-8 weeks following the operation, was eventually removed in September 2016. However, in October 2016 it was noted that DB had already developed two hernias secondary to the re-implantation procedure. DB therefore had to undergo a further operation to correct these.
Expert evidence was obtained a Consultant Urologist and Consultant Colorectal Surgeon. Following the serving of a Letter of Claim, the Trust admitted liability and made an early Part 36 offer in the sum of £40,000, which was not accepted by the Claimant.
A joint settlement meeting followed where the claim was settled in the amount of £100,000. A letter of apology was also provided by the NHS Trust addressed to the Claimant.