Compensation for widow who lost her husband due to medical negligence


But sorry stills seems to be the hardest word

The widow of a Manchester man who died 4 years ago after doctors failed to treat an infection which eventually took his life has won medical negligence compensation in the sum of £18, 000.

Hannah Vickers, the widow of Paul who died in 2005 at Tameside hospital, successfully sued the hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust at Manchester county court, after the trust admitted its negligence in causing his death by inadequately treating the infection.

Paul was 69 at the time of his death and had been admitted to Tameside A&E on 26th January 2005 after complaining of lower abdominal pain which he had been suffering for the past three days. He had previously been treated for a urinary infection and was subsequently prescribed Ibuprofen and paracetamol before being discharged home that afternoon.

"However, his condition worsened dramatically over the next 48 hours," explained Hannah’s solicitor, Janet Johnson of Simpson Millar LLP, "and he was readmitted on 28th January, where despite the efforts of the medical staff, he died of a heart attack later that night".

The claim was advanced by Mrs Vickers under The Fatal Accidents Act 1975 and on behalf of her husband’s estate under The Law Reform (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act 1934.

"We alleged that there was a negligent failure to admit Mr Vickers to hospital on the 26th January 2005 for further investigations," added Ms Johnson. "He should not have been discharged home on oral antibiotics. Following further investigations, he would have commenced on intravenous antibiotics and fluids and there was a negligent failure in the prescription of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to Mr Vickers, being as he was a complex patient with ischaemic heart disease and diabetes".

"But for the negligent act and omissions, Mr Vickers would have been admitted and treated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids. He would have undergone main stream urine testing and received antibiotic treatment. Following the results of this, he would have recovered from his urinary tract infection he would not have deteriorated and died as he did on the 29th January 2005."

So what are the lessons to be learnt from this tragic case? According to Ms Johnson, it is how the ‘S’ word could have been enough to avoid the ‘L’ word.

"This was in many ways a very straight forward medical negligence case involving a medical professional on one side and a grieving family member on the other."

"Although this case doesn’t tell us something we didn’t already know about the law, it does serve as a reminder that we are dealing with people, and sometimes compassion and empathy goes a long way towards emotional recovery. "

"In a nutshell, Paul Vickers should have been admitted to hospital immediately but instead he was sent home. The hospital failed to treat a patient properly and appropriately with death as the consequence."

"However, it took the Trust several months to admit liability and subsequently nine months of negotiations over the size of the settlement ensued. In the end, I can almost say for certain that more money was spent in legal fees arguing over a few thousand pounds than was actually ‘saved’ by the Trust."

"This case could have been settled much sooner which would have been all-round more appropriate and ethical. However, it seems the Trust’s strategy was to vigorously defend this claim to the bitter end when what was really needed was an honest and sincere apology to Mrs Vickers, who had lost her husband. "

"Receiving an apology often means the world to grieving relatives and completely diffuses an otherwise tense and emotional situation. For Mrs Vickers it was important that the hospital accepted its breach of duty of care towards her husband and apologised for the negligence that led to his death. Unfortunately she had to fight hard to get it. "

"I struggle to understand why a letter of apology is not always offered after admission of liability. There is no legal reason for this but nevertheless I consistently have to ask for it when in my view, saying ‘we are sorry’ should follow almost automatically. I suspect that in the case of Mr and Mrs Vickers, an immediate letter of apology would have been enough and litigation could have been avoided altogether."

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