‘Mary’, 68

Rebecca Cahill, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at JMW has secured £32,500 in compensation for the family of a 68-year-old woman who died following a misdiagnosis of sepsis.

Sent home despite signs

Mary had previously been diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in her stomach many years ago.  The tumour recurred four years prior to her death, but after undergoing a combination of chemotherapy and surgery, she was stable and living a normal life.

In January, Mary started to develop shortness of breath and pain in her chest and shoulders. She attended A&E and underwent investigations which showed she had a high temperature and raised CRP count (an infection marker). Tests also revealed she had an abnormal heart rhythm and the combination of these symptoms indicated she had an infection and was at risk of sepsis. Despite this, Mary was discharged from hospital without a diagnosis.  She was given pain killers and told to increase her blood pressure medication. She was not given any advice on what to do if her symptoms got worse.

Deterioration

Over the following week, Mary became gradually more unwell, with shortness of breath, confusion, sweating and fatigue.

She was taken to hospital by ambulance and was found to have a serious kidney injury and a shadow on her lung.  She was treated as if she had suffered a serious problem with her heart. Sadly, Mary’s condition deteriorated very quickly.  She was left in pain, became confused and passed away later that night, without any doctors coming to see her despite calls made by the nurses.

It was not until after Mary had passed away that her family learned that she was suffering with a lower respiratory tract infection which developed in to sepsis.

The claim

Mary’s husband spoke to the experts at JMW to start legal action, as he was concerned that there was a failure on the part of the hospital to diagnose Mary’s infection and treat sepsis.

Rebecca Cahill took the claim on, and her investigation revealed that the hospital had failed to consider an infection as the cause of Mary’s symptoms in light of her raised CRP count, high temperature and increased heart rate.  They failed to undertake appropriate investigations as a result and necessary antibiotics were not given. 

After a case was brought by Rebecca on behalf of Mary’s husband, the hospital trust admitted that it was negligent in failing to suspect sepsis, particularly given Mary’s ongoing chemotherapy, which put her at higher risk. The trust also accepted that, had Mary had been given antibiotics when she first attended hospital with shortness of breath, she would not have developed sepsis and would have survived.  The trust also paid compensation totalling £32,500 however no amount of money could ever make up for the loss of Mary and the distressing negligence she suffered.

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