Paracetamol for Meningitis Costs 13-Year-Old his Life


A coroner looking into the death of a 13-year-old boy has ordered a report be made to prevent further deaths. Thomas Smith died of meningitis, and his death was deemed completely avoidable due to a gross failure of care.

Gross Failure of Care

Worst Pain of his Life

Thomas Smith, 13, from Hednesford went to hospital after being in "the worst pain of his life". At first his family approached an out of hours GP, before being referred to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. He was fast tracked by nurses who had serious concerns about the boy's health.

Thomas had sickness, neck-pain, flu-like symptoms, earache and vomiting. These are all classic signs of pneumococcal meningitis. When doctors saw him, they gave him paracetamol whilst they carried out further tests.

The Need for Urgency

We recently commented on how the rapid screening and treatment of sepsis genuinely is a matter of life and death. It is very much the same with meningitis. Christopher Woolley, the coroner, stated that, "Where meningitis is suspected it's essential antibiotics are given immediately. The need for basic medical attention in this form was obvious."

The coroner ultimately believed that had he been given antibiotics as a precautionary method, Thomas' chances of survival would have increased.

Every minute mattered

According the coroner, "The risk of giving unnecessary medication was outweighed by the risk of Thomas having bacterial meningitis." This is important, as we are not suggesting that doctors should push pills onto everyone, causing terrible side effects. Rather, the doctors need to weigh the risks of giving medication, against the risks of not giving medication, as well as having proper screening systems in place that can process high risk patients as fast as possible.

Those who have symptoms of sepsis and meningitis should be screened quickly, as part of the assessment stage in A&E. If you're left feeling that you or a loved one didn't receive the right treatment in time, you can make a complaint to the hospital. If you feel that the lack of sufficient treatment caused harm, or even death, you can speak to a medical negligence solicitor to talk through your options.

Speaking out about failing hospital practices can instigate change, meaning that more lives can be saved in the future. Where appropriate, compensation can also help victims of medical negligence piece their lives back together, paying for essentials and on-going care costs.

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