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Case study: poor GP standard of care leads to premature death
Lynda, 62 years old, Buckinghamshire
Lynda had been otherwise well before she first attended her GP suffering from shortness of breath, with palpitations. She had a chest X-ray and ECG but no abnormalities were detected. A year later, while the original symptoms continued she started to have hot flushes. Lynda was referred to a HRT Clinic.
Failure to fully control blood pressure
Later that year, Lynda’s GP measured her blood pressure twice and found it to be extremely high. She began to complain of feeling tired and sickly and started to have panic attacks.
The next spring Lynda was prescribed Propranolol. She developed a rash and her anti-hypertensive medication was changed to Enalapril. For the next four years, Lynda’s blood pressure was regularly monitored by her GP. Her blood pressure varied over this time but was not fully controlled, despite medication.
Lynda and her husband, Raymond were concerned that her GP was failing to take seriously her concerns regarding her health. Raymond recalled his wife complaining to the GP on several occasions in his presence about heart palpitations, hot flushes, nausea and shortness of breath.
Fatal cardiac arrest
Five years after Lynda first attended her GP with these symptoms she was referred to her local hospital to undergo total hip replacement, as she had also been suffering with the hip.
Lynda was admitted to hospital for the operation. The day after the procedure she was noted to have very bad heart palpitations. She had a reaction to the anaesthetic and was violently sick. Six days after the operation Lynda suffered a cardiac arrest due to myocardial infarction and died.
A post-mortem found Lynda had a adrenal phaeochromocytoma, a rare tumour of the medulla of the supra renal gland, which secretes adrenaline and noradrenaline in excess, causing proxysmal attacks of high blood pressure, headache and palpitations.
Her husband Raymond, represented by JMW Solicitors, alleged that the GP standard of care fell below the requisite standard, in a number of respects. The GP records, whilst recording repeated blood pressure readings, did not detail any other examination and no investigations were arranged, despite Enalapril being prescribed. It was further alleged that a referral to a Physician ought to have occurred in view of Lynda’s hypertension. With appropriate treatment Lynda would have survived and her life expectancy would not have been compromised.
The claim was settled shortly before trial and Raymond received £108,000 compensation.
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