Sepsis and JMW - your questions answered

Sepsis is an abnormal immune system response to micro-organisms, such as bacteria in your body, that causes damage to internal organs and tissue. In the UK, at least 150,000 people suffer from severe sepsis each year.

Sepsis can develop as the result of common infections such as a chest or urine infection and can affect anyone. Those at particular risk are those with weakened immune systems or other serious conditions, as well as the very young and very old.

Symptoms of sepsis will present differently in adults and children and can be confused with other conditions. In children, the symptoms might include breathing very quickly, having a fit or appearing blue or pale. The child may have a rash that does not fade when you press it or may feel very cold to the touch.

In adults, the symptoms can include confusion, severe shivering or muscle pain and severe breathlessness. Some will suffer discoloured skin and will not be passing urine.

Sepsis can be life-threatening, and people who develop sepsis need hospital treatment immediately as the condition is treatable if caught early enough.

Q&A with JMW’s sepsis expert, specialist clinical negligence partner Steven Brown

1. Are there any complications associated with sepsis?

Sepsis can cause a number of significant medical complications that can mean impairments in the patient’s ability to carry out normal activities of daily living or work.

It can be fatal if treatment is not received quickly enough, and the tissue damage it causes can, in some circumstances, lead to limb amputations. Some patients also suffer permanent organ damage and may need treatment such as dialysis for the rest of their life. Sufferers may also be left with cognitive problems such as memory loss and diffiulties with problem-solving.

In addition, post-sepsis syndrome affects approximately 50 percent of people, a condition that can cause insomnia, nightmares, muscle pains and extreme fatigue.

2. Describe some of the high profile sepsis cases JMW have seen

"Mr B"

Mr B, 54, died after a hospital failed to diagnose sepsis. Mr B attended an urgent care centre with severe abdominal pain and diarrhoea and was referred to A&E where tests revealed signs that he had severe sepsis. The doctor who initially treated Mr B suspected he had a severe infection and planned to provide intravenous antibiotics. While a diagnosis of sepsis was not made at this stage, this plan would have brought the sepsis under control and limited the damage done to his organs. However a short time later Mr B was referred to a more senior doctor who decided intravenous antibiotics were not needed and so Mr B did not receive the treatment that would have saved his life.

Mr B continued to deteriorate and more than eight hours after his admission to hospital the IV antibiotics were provided to him. However, by this point it was too late to successfully treat him and he suffered a cardiac arrest and died.

Mr B’s wife got in touch with JMW, who brought a case against the hospital trust. The hospital admitted failing to diagnose and treat sepsis and agreed to pay Mr B’s family £370,000 in compensation to help them to cope with the financial implications of their loss.

"Mr J"

Mr J, 62, almost died when a hospital failed to treat an infection for five days, causing him to develop severe sepsis and multiple organ failure. A doctor who initially examined Mr J correctly suspected he had an infection in his hip and planned to test for infection and then start antibiotics. However, he was wrongly overruled by a consultant and the blunders that followed meant that Mr J did not receive urgently-needed treatment for five days.

Mr J, came close to death due to the failures and his heart stopped five times. He was in hospital for nine-and-a-half months while he battled to recover. However, his ordeal would have been completely preventable had he been diagnosed and treated when he was first admitted into hospital. Mr J went on to have both his hip joints removed in the wake of the trauma and is now reliant on a wheelchair for mobility, with doubts over whether he will ever be able to walk independently again.

After Mr J sought help from JMW, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust admitted failing to treat the infection and that this resulted in multiple organ failure, the spread of the infection and the removal of his left hip joint. A compensation settlement was later agreed.

3. How can claiming compensation help those with sepsis?

People who have suffered sepsis may have been left with debilitating injuries that may affect their ability to work or even carry out normal activities of daily living. In addition, if they have a limited income, lack of support network or live in a property that is unsuitable to their new needs and requirements, they may struggle to adjust to life after sepsis.

In a successful claim a claimant will receive compensation to put them in the position they would have been in had the negligence never occurred. Commonly, a significant proportion of compensation will be awarded to pay for support such as home carers or adaptations around the home. If someone needs medical treatment as a result of the negligence then it may be possible to claim the costs on a private basis in the future.

Get in touch

If you, or a loved one, have suffered from sepsis that could have been avoided, our solicitors can help establish whether you are entitled to make a claim.

To speak to a member of our friendly and understanding team about your potential claim, call us today on 0800 054 6512. If you would prefer for us to contact you, simply leave your details via our online enquiry form.

Back to Sepsis Claims

Let us contact you

View our Privacy Policy