Opioid Overdose Kills 54 Year Old Hospital Patient
The Law Of… Managing Pain Relief
The mishandled management of a patient's pain relief led tragically to their death and a claim for damages from a grieving widow. Medical Negligence claims Partner, David Thomas, took on the case and explains how lapses in care led to the pursuit of justice.
Pain Relief Leads To Respiratory Collapse
Admitted to hospital complaining of acute back pain, the patient at the centre of this claim (Mr A) was assessed and promptly diagnosed with a spinal abscess.
A course of antibiotics was prescribed as treatment, which significantly improved his condition. However, the pain he was suffering required effective relief and Mr A was given increasing doses of strong opiates.
Thirteen days after entering the hospital, during the early hours of the morning, Mr A underwent respiratory arrest. Initial treatment allowed him to recover, but a further episode of respiratory collapse and cardiac arrest followed. Sadly, the patient failed to recover.
Alleged Medical Negligence And Opioid Overdose
Following the death of her husband, Mr A's widow approached Simpson Millar, looking to pursue a claim for damages against the hospital responsible. Believing she had a strong case, David Thomas agreed to represent her.
A Letter of Claim was sent to the NHS trust, in which the allegations of medical negligence included:
- Poor management of Mr A's pain relief
- Inappropriate administration of large doses of opiates
- Failure to escalate Mr A to intensive care following the first respiratory collapse
- Subsequent failure to effectively monitor Mr A's condition despite the opiates remaining in his system.
It was argued that these failings caused the initial respiratory collapse, the repeat episode, the cardiac arrest and ultimately the death of Mr A.
Below The Standard Of Care Reasonably Expected
In its response to the Letter of Claim, the NHS trust denied that the patient's pain relief had been poorly managed. It also denied that the administration and dosage of opiates had been inappropriate.
It did accept that the observation of Mr A following the initial respiratory arrest was below the standard of care that could be reasonable expected. It also admitted that once the collapse had occurred he should have been moved to intensive care.
Justice Achieved In Her Husband's Memory
Independent medical experts were instructed on behalf of both Mr A's widow and the hospital trust, resulting in a major difference of opinion over the final cause of death. Despite this, and with the trust's admission of a failure in care strengthening the claimant's case, negotiations continued.
An out of court settlement was eventually agreed and Mr A's widow received substantial damages for the devastating loss of husband.
"Mr A's widow came to Simpson Millar in desperation following the tragic and avoidable death of her husband and we were happy to help her seek justice. After instructing our tried and tested team of experts we were able to construct a compelling case."
"We were also able to support Mr A's widow at the inquest hearing into her husband's death."
"After the initial denials, the hospital trust and their legal team eventually saw the sense in reaching a negotiated settlement. Our client was happy with the outcome and felt she had achieved justice in her late husband's memory."
If you believe the death of a loved one was the result of medical negligence, you may be entitled to similar compensation. To discuss your case in confidence, contact our Medical Negligence department today.