Medical negligence left teenager paralysed, admits hospital


A hospital trust admitted medical negligence after a forgotten spinal anaesthetic left a teenage girl paralysed from the waist down.

Sophie Tyler, now 17, was admitted to Birmingham Children's Hospital on 27 May 2008 for routine gallstones removal. Although the surgery was successful, an epidural to control pain was left in place for more than 2 days after the procedure, causing permanent damage to her spinal cord.

Sophie complained of numbness in her right leg a day after the operation, but felt no pain as her spine continued to receive anaesthetic. After 2 days, the numbness had spread to both legs and Sophie found it hard to move her feet.

Hospital staff did not stop the anaesthetic until the night of 29 May, despite warnings that something was seriously wrong. Next day, an MRI scan revealed that the anaesthetic in Sophie's spinal cord had caused membrane damage, paralysing the schoolgirl from the waist down.

Negligent medical care resulted in paralysis

Tim Deeming, the Tyler family's representative, said: "Birmingham Children's Hospital has a reputation for clinical excellence, which is why it is extremely important, both to protect future patient welfare and to provide public reassurance, that the hospital learns important lessons from what happened to Sophie."

"The Trust's full admission of liability now paves the way for a settlement which will provide Sophie with financial support to pay for the special equipment and care she now needs."

Mr Deeming added that bringing the case would not have been possible without the support of legal aid.

Neil Fearn of Simpson Millar LLP called for greater care on the part of all hospital trusts and their staff. "Medical negligence has completely changed the lives of Sophie and her family. The consequences of this catastrophic failure on the part of a well-known children's hospital should be heeded by the entire medical profession."

Neil went on to say: "This case illustrates the important of legal aid for medical negligence cases. There is currently a bill before Parliament that will remove legal aid from medical negligence cases. If passed, legal aid will cease to be available for victims such as Sophie. Without legal aid, she could not have brought this case and she and other victims would be denied justice. Without legal aid the hospital would not have been made aware of this failure and would not have the opportunity of ensuring that it does not happen to other children in the future. The Government needs to recognise the catastrophic effect that removing legal aid from clinical negligence will have on children such as Sophie in the future."

Dr Vin Diwakar, chief medical officer at Birmingham Children's Hospital, said: "We are deeply sorry for the unimaginable distress we have caused Sophie and her family as a result of the care she received at our hospital three years ago."

"The care we provided fell below our usual high standards and since then we have implemented a whole series of changes to try to ensure that this never happens again."

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