Doctor who Discharged Girl with Fatal Appendicitis Given a Warning

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Ian Clifton
Medical Negligence Solicitor

In July 2018, Elspeth Moore, who was five years old at the time, was admitted to Southampton General Hospital with severe stomach pains. Elspeth had told doctors at the hospital that her stomach “felt like it was on fire” but she was sent home shortly after being misdiagnosed with a viral infection.   

Just two days after Elspeth was discharged from hospital, her condition worsened and she went into cardiac arrest. Elspeth died in hospital on 6 July 2018, the reason for her death was recorded as acute appendicitis which had developed into peritonitis and sepsis.   

The paediatrician who examined Elspeth and discharged her on her first visit to the hospital was Dr Faye Hawkins. She has now been given a warning by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service but has ultimately been allowed to continue practising as a doctor. 

As Medical Negligence Lawyers, we know how devasting a misdiagnosis can be. If you’ve received an incorrect or delayed diagnosis, we could help you access vital support and compensation.

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How did the Tribunal Come to its Decision?

Despite Dr Hawkins’ failure to carry out a second assessment on Elspeth or properly record the “red flag” symptom of lethargy that she presented, the tribunal found that the doctor had “learnt from her mistakes and has remediated fully.”

The tribunal did note, however, that Dr Hawkins’ actions had “amounted to misconduct” and referred to missed opportunities to conduct a second examination of Elspeth’s symptoms. The latter was described as a “serious failing below the standard expected”.

In spite of all this, the tribunal ultimately concluded that it was “impressed” with Dr Hawkins’ remediation efforts and as this was an isolated case four years ago, they did not feel that her ability to practise was impaired.

Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. In cases such as this, the anguish felt by the parents is compounded by the knowledge that their child’s death was avoidable. Clearly, the clinician in this case was found to have provided care below the standard Elspeth’s parents were entitled to expect, with devastating consequences. Having placed their trust in medical professionals, they were initially reassured that their daughter was suffering from a minor illness. This case demonstrates how catastrophic the consequences of negligent medical treatment can be. The Tribunal’s decision, whilst reasoned, will bring no comfort to Elspeth’s parents.

- Ian Clifton, Medical Negligence Solicitor

What are the Main Causes of Medical Misdiagnosis?

There are unfortunately a number of circumstances that can lead to medical misdiagnoses being made by healthcare professionals, including:

  • failing to arrange further medical tests;
  • failing to recognise key symptoms or mistaking a patient’s symptoms for something else;
  • failure to consider multiple potential diagnoses;
  • losing or misplacing a patient’s test results;
  • test results that are incorrectly reported as being normal.

Any one of these could result in a patient’s misdiagnosis, but this is not an exhaustive list. If you’ve been misdiagnosed by a GP or a hospital doctor, you could be entitled to compensation, regardless of the circumstances leading up to your misdiagnosis.

Get in touch with our experienced Medical Negligence team for a Free Claims Assessment. 

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