Roger Murray, joint Managing Partner at Callan Tansey solicitors – speaking at a conference on medical negligence with solicitors, medical professionals and patients in attendance in September – said that roughly 1,000 unnecessary deaths are caused every year in Ireland due to medical negligence.
The legal expert went on to add that up to 160,000 hospitals visitors suffer injuries due to human error. Mr Murray was speaking at the Pathways to Progress conference on medical negligence and stressed that there is “no compo culture” to be seen when it comes to Irish medical negligence compensation legal cases, saying that he believes that what we are seeing currently is just “the top of a very murky iceberg”.
From his experience in working on a number of high-profile medical error compensation cases, Mr Murray said that he believes that not all people suffering due to medical negligence report it while the HSE is made aware of 34,170 “clinical incidents” every year. Of these 575 resulted in compensation claims against the HSE, a rate of less than 1.7 per cent.
Mr Murray told those at the conference that the most often experienced cases are involving surgery (36 per cent) medicine (24 per cent), maternity (23 per cent) and gynaecology (7.5 per cent).
He also stressed that while injured parties and families do have empathy for medical workers who make errors what “they cannot abide is systemic and repeated errors”.
The legal expert called for thorough reviews when mistakes are experienced, saying that he had witnessed many inquests where families of those who had died learned that desktop reviews had been completed after a death, and the results were not presented to the appropriate staff members.
A woman in Philadelphia has won her claim for an adverse reaction to medication which caused her to go into cardiac arrest from which she suffered permanent brain damage.
In June 2010, Jacqueline DiTore attended the Outpatient´s Department of the Abington Surgical Centre in Pennsylvania for scheduled surgery on her nose. Prior to starting the surgery, her surgeon – Dr Warren Zager – asked a nurse to prepare an injection for a local anaesthetic and soak some cotton balls in a nasal decongestant (Afrin) so that they were ready if there was excessive bleeding during the procedure.
The nurse poured the nasal decongestant into a cup in order to soak the cotton balls before preparing the injection; but a second nurse mistook the contents of the cup as the anaesthetic, drew the Afrin into a syringe and handed it to the doctor. Unaware that the syringe had been filled with nasal decongestant, Dr Zager injected the Afrin into Jacqueline´s nose, and then left his patient to prepare for the surgery.
An anaesthetist present in the operating room saw that Jacqueline´s heart rate had decreased to 36 beats per minute and – unaware that Jacqueline had been injected with sufficient Afrin to cause a 100-fold narrowing of the blood vessels – administered an anticholinergic which brought Jacqueline´s heart rate up to 80 beats per minute.
Dr Zager returned to the operating room to begin the procedure, but Jacqueline still had feeling in her nose. The doctor asked for another injection of anaesthetic to be prepared, and it was then that the mix-up was realised. Unaware of the effect that the Afrin had on Jacqueline´s heart rate, Dr Zager chose to continue with the surgery and injected more anaesthetic into Jacqueline´s nose.
Following the second injection, Jacqueline´s heart rate suddenly increased to 140 beats per minute and her blood pressure registered 260/150. Dr Zager administered Labetalol (a drug used to lower high blood pressure) and Jacqueline´s blood pressure fell so low so quickly that she went into cardiac arrest. Jacqueline was rushed to nearby Abington Memorial Hospital where she was resuscitated.
Soon after her recovery from the cardiac arrest, it became apparent that Jacqueline´s adverse reaction to medication had caused brain damage which left her with impaired cognitive abilities, short-term memory loss and difficulty with her speech. Doctors told Jacqueline that her brain injuries were likely to deteriorate as she gets older and, after seeking legal advice, she made a compensation claim for an adverse reaction to medication against the Abington Surgical Centre and Dr Zager.
Both defendants denied that they were liable for the adverse reaction that caused Jacqueline to go into cardiac arrest but at the Montgomery County Court in Philadelphia before Judge Thomas M. Del Ricci, a jury delivered a verdict in Jacqueline´s favour and awarded her $5.1 million in settlement of her claim for an adverse reaction to medication. The jury found Dr Zager to be 38.5 percent negligent for the adverse reaction and the Abington Surgical Centre 61.5 percent negligent for the circumstances which caused it.
A settlement of compensation for delayed hospital negligence has been approved at the High Court in the case of Brid Courtney – two years after the brain damaged child was awarded an interim payment.
Brid, who is now nine years old and comes from Ardfert in County Kerry, was born in Tralee General Hospital in February 2003 suffering from brain damage after medical staff at the hospital allegedly did not act on a sudden and dramatic change in the foetal heart rate pattern.
As a consequence of the slowing heart beat, Brid suffered perinatal asphyxia in the womb and because of the oxygen starvation is now confined to a wheelchair from which she has to be lifted bodily. She is also unable to speak and has to rely on her eyes and facial expressions to communicate with her family.
Following a medical negligence claim due to delayed treatment made through her mother – Deidre – the Health Service Executive agreed to settle the claim without admission of liability and, in November 2010, Mr Justice John Quirke approved an interim payment of 2 million Euros and adjourned the case for two years to allow for the introduction of periodic payments.
However, a system for periodic compensation payments for catastrophic injuries has still not been brought in by the government and – two years after the first payment of compensation for delayed hospital action was approved – the case returned before the court for the approval of a final settlement.
At the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard evidence from experts that a further 9 million Euros in compensation for delayed hospital negligence would be required to provide adequate care for Brid through the remainder of her expected life and, as both Brid´s mother and the Health Service Executive agreed with the expert´s assessment, Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement.
An ex-paramedic, who was left severely disabled after doctors removed the wrong part of his brain, has accepted a seven figure settlement of compensation for hospital negligent brain surgery from the NHS Trust responsible for the error.
John Tunney (63) from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, underwent the hospital operation in April 2008 after an MRI scan had revealed abnormalities around his pituitary gland. However, instead of removing the tumour, surgeons took away healthy tissue during the procedure which resulted in John´s brain haemorrhaging.
The error left John partly blind and requiring 24 hour care. He later learned that the operation had not even been necessary as doctors did not check the results of a blood test which would have revealed that John was suffering from prolactinoma – a benign and common pituitary tumour which can be treated with tablets.
After taking legal guidance, John – who worked for the West Midlands Ambulance Service as a paramedic for 23 years – made a claim for hospital negligent brain surgery compensation against the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and, after an investigation, the NHS Trust admitted liability for the dual error.
John´s solicitors entered into talks with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust over how much compensation for hospital negligent brain surgery should be awarded and, although details of the final settlement have not been released, a settlement in excess of one million pounds has been agreed.
The family of a six-year-old girl, who were told their daughter was well enough to return home when suffering from pneumococcal meningitis, are to receive an anticipated seven figure payout in compensation for clinical misdiagnosis of meningitis.
Kate Pierce from Wrexham, North Wales, was just nine months old when she developed the infection and was brought to Wrexham´s Maelor Hospital. A junior doctor diagnosed Kate with viral tonsillitis and told her parents it was permissible to take her home. When asked if they could have a second opinion, Kate´s parents were told that the advice of a senior doctor had been sought when it had not been.
Kate´s parents took Kate but, when her condition deteriorated further, returned to the hospital the following day. Upon their return Kate was correctly diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and transferred to Liverpool´s Alder Hey Children´s Hospital. However, Kate had already sustained serious brain damage and now suffers from chronic lung disease, severe epilepsy and is registered both blind and deaf.
The family sought legal advice about claiming compensation for misdiagnosis of meningitis and sued the Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board for medical negligence – claiming that the severity of Kate´s condition could have been avoided if she had been diagnosed correctly. After an examination of the allegations, Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board admitted 75 per cent liability for Kate´s injuries and, at Mold County Court, a judge heard that a compromise situation had been reached.
How much compensation for medical negligence Kate´s family will receive will be decided at a hearing later this year.
Increased awareness of patient rights has resulted in a dramatic increase in claims for medical negligence against the National Health Service (NHS). According to government figures, the number of hospital negligence claims made in the past five years has increased 5,697 to 8,655 per year, and has forced the NHS Litigation Authority to seek additional funding from the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansbury.
Tom Fothergill, financial director of the NHS Litigation Authority, admitted that marketing by “No Win, No Fee” solicitors had contributed to the public body´s financial shortfall and had added a premium to legal costs. However, he was also quick to point out that legislation which linked the wages of claimants´ carers to earnings rather than inflation has also led to increased payouts.
With approximately 100 claims for medical negligence a year relating to birth injury compensation, and the average value of each claim close to 6 million pounds in the lifetime of the child, an improvement in the survival rates of brain damaged babies – who will require a lifetime of care – has also placed significant strain on the NHS Litigation Authority´s budget.
A further 185 million pounds is required by the NHS Litigation Authority to prevent it running out of money by the end of the financial year, a sum which has been approved by Mr Lansbury and health minister Lord Howe. Following the announcement of the bail-out Lord Howe said “Following a review of claims, we have made additional funds available to the NHS Litigation Authority in order to make sure that those claimants who are entitled to compensation receive it in a timely way.”
A woman who had her stomach erroneously removed after being misdiagnosed with cancer has won her hospital medical malpractice claim and received an undisclosed settlement from Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust.
The 74-year-old woman from Rugeley, Staffordshire, underwent the operation in 2004 after doctors told her that a tumour in her stomach was malignant. Later ahw discovered from support medical staff that her test results had been misinterpreted and that the tumour was benign.
As a result of her operation and the subsequent long recovery period the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, has lost a significant amount of weight and suffers from painful digestive problems. She has been unable to continue in the voluntary work she did before the operation and now requires regular care and assistance.
The undisclosed out-of-court hospital medical malpractice claim settlement has been calculated to include the psychological trauma of being told that she had a life-threatening tumour inside of her and the deterioration in her quality of life due to the unnecessary surgery. It will enable the woman to receive a higher level of care in the future and support to help her recover from her emotional experience.
A couple from Staffordshire have been awarded an undisclosed hospital medical malpractice settlement after their son coughed up a tube which had been left in his throat following a surgical procedure.
Claire Thomas of Cannock, Staffordshire, had just given birth to her son, Owen, at the Stafford Hospital in February 2007 when the incident occurred. It had been a difficult birth, and because he had experienced should dystocia during the delivery, an endotracheal tube had been inserted into his throat to enable him to breathe.
Due to the birth issues, Claire and Owen were still in the specialist care unit at Stafford Hospital ten days later when Owen started choking. Claire slapped him on the back, and Owen coughed up the six inch tube which had been left in his throat after the surgical procedure.
After taking legal counsel, Claire and her husband, Kevin, filed a hospital medical negligence claim against the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust which has now been resolved for an undisclosed sum. Owen, their son, has fortunately suffered no long-term consequences as a result of the hospital mistake.
A renowned magician, whose doctor´s overlooked a severed tendon in his hand which threatened to end his career, has been awarded 15,000 pounds in an out-of-court settlement of his wrong diagnosis compensation claim.
Kyle Summers (40) from Burbage, Wiltshire, had attended the Accident and Emergency Department of the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton after a cup he had been cleaning broke in his hand. Doctors at the hospital took an x-ray of Kyle´s left hand to ensure that there was no china lodged in his thumb and then stitched the wound up and allowed Kyle to return home.
When Kyle started to experience difficulty performing his normal magic tricks, he decided to have the hand looked at by his GP, but because the notes made at the hospital indicated that there was no damage to the tendon – even though the cut on Kyle´s thumb had been deep enough to reach the bone – the GP and a physiotherapist decided that the tendon had swollen.
It was after an additional check-up six weeks later that the true cause of the problem was identified. Kyle had to undergo two operations to insert a rod in his wrist and attach a thicker tendon before the injury began to heal. Only after months of intense specialist physiotherapy did Kyle regain the dexterity in his hand to enable him to work again.
After seeking legal counsel, Kyle sued the George Eliot NHS Trust for medical negligence and, in an out-of-court settlement, received 15,000 pounds for the missed diagnosis of his severed tendon.