Case study: £16,500 for delayed sepsis diagnosis

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Our medical negligence solicitors acted on behalf of Mr H, who passed away from sepsis after arriving at hospital with abdominal pain.

Mr H was admitted to hospital after developing abdominal pain. He was diagnosed with a complete blockage of the superior mesenteric artery in his abdomen, and bowel ischaemia in a segment of the terminal ileum (part of the small intestine). He was also diagnosed with extensive pneumatosis which suggested impending bowel necrosis.

Mr H underwent surgery that evening to re-sect part of his small bowel. He then returned to surgery on two further occasions to have his gall bladder removed and reconstruct his ileostomy. A few weeks later, his temperature began to spike and an abdominal collection was noted shortly afterwards. Mr H was prescribed IV antibiotics and diagnosed with sepsis. There was discussion about draining the collection but this was not carried out. Despite IV antibiotics, Mr H’s condition slowly deteriorated and he died as a result of sepsis less than a month later.

Our medical negligence solicitors proceeded with a claim to prove that Mr H’s death could have been avoided if the cause of his sepsis, eventually thought to be the abdominal collection, had been identified and treated earlier. The Defendant had finally tried to drain the collection but had been unable to do so as it was left too late. However, some matter was obtained and Klebsiella (a type of bacteria) was identified from this.

The team obtained expert evidence from a gastroenterology surgeon who was not critical of the surgical procedures nor the fact that no effort had been made to drain the collection until it was too late. Expert evidence was then obtained from a microbiologist who was critical of the hospital for failing to identify the haematoma/collection as the most likely cause of Mr H’s sepsis and to identify the causative organism. As a result of this failure, Mr H had been administered antibiotics which were not effective in treating his sepsis.

After sending the Letter of Claim to the Defendant, liability was denied. Efforts were made to persuade the Defendant that, although our client was likely to have died within a few weeks or months, he should not have died of sepsis when he did. One of the Defendant’s arguments was that the collection had not shown signs of infection on radiological review. As a consequence, a steer was requested from an expert radiologist who confirmed that radiology alone could not be relied upon and that it should be interpreted in the context of the patient’s condition which was deteriorating.

Another letter was sent to the Defendant setting out this argument, together with a Part 36 offer in the sum of £17,500 which included a bereavement award and a sum for pain and suffering. The Defendant made a counter offer for £16,500 which was accepted.

Further information

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with sepsis and you believe it was not diagnosed or treated when it should have been, our medical negligence solicitors may be able to help. Call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.

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