Personal injury hurt arm

Compensation for a widow whose husband died due to negligence during vitrectomy surgery

Jenny Hawkes specialist clinical negligence lawyer acted for the widow and estate of the deceased and obtained an out of court settlement of £110,000.

The deceased was aged 56 when he suffered symptoms of visual loss in his right eye.  A large right temple and macular retinal detachment was identified and he was referred to Moorfields Eye Hospital for treatment.

The deceased was booked for vitrectomy surgery under local anaesthetic the next day.

The deceased was keen to have general anaesthetic but was persuaded by the anaesthetist to receive sedation initially and ascertain how he felt.  There was no discernible sedative effect after 2 minutes and target plasma concentration was doubled.  Local anaesthetic and antiseptic eye drops were administered.

The deceased was then noted to be flinching and further sedative was given.  The deceased was then noted to tolerate the remainder of the eye drops.  A further sedative was given immediately prior to administration of the local anaesthetic block.

Target controlled remifentanil infusion was increased during the procedure and about 30 minutes into the procedure the deceased’s heart rate increased and he moved his arms towards his face.

The anaesthetist interpreted the deceased’s movements as an indication that he was feeling discomfort.  Therefore remifentanil was doubled.  After the increase, it was noted that the deceased had put his arms back by his side and had stopped moving.  Thereafter the remifentanil concentration was decreased.

Measured SPO2 was between 94 and 97% but the probe was becoming dislodged on account of hand movements.  After repositioning the displayed probe read 80% but then failed to display a value.  Nasal oxygen flow rate was increased.

The deceased’s heart rate decreased to 35-40 bpm and no SPO2 value was displayed.  The surgeon was called and the lights were turned on in theatre.  On removal of the drape the deceased was found to be clearly cyanosed.  A diagnosis of cardiac arrest was established and an emergency call issued.  External cardiac compressions were carried out.

After approximately 7 minutes a carotid pulse became palpable and CPR was discontinued.  The deceased was transferred to the Royal London Hospital but sadly died 8 days later.

An Inquest was held and inexplicably the Coroner concluded that the deceased had died as a result of an unrelated cardiac event leading to hypoxia.

The deceased’s widow instructed Thomson Snell & Passmore to investigate.  Expert evidence obtained from an independent anaesthetist confirmed that there had been substandard care during the vitrectomy surgery as there had been a prolonged period of lack of oxygen leading to brain damage which was entirely preventable.  The evidence pointed to hypoxia during surgery being the cause of the cardiac arrest rather than an unrelated cardiac event as concluded by the Coroner.

The defendant denied liability, however expressed a willingness to settle the claim, a clear indication it did not have faith in its denial.

Claims were made for the widow’s financial and services dependency as well as bereavement damages.  The claim settled for damages of £110,000.

The impact of the deceased’s death was understandably devastating for the claimant and no amount of money could compensate her for her loss.  However, the damages would serve to ease some of her financial burdens in the future.

Jenny Hawkes specialises in fatal accident cases.  If you would like to ask Jenny a question about a potential case, or if you have a general query about any clinical negligence, contact Jenny Hawkes at Thomson Snell & Passmore solicitors on 01892 701374 in confidence. We offer no win no fee agreements on the vast majority of our clinical negligence and personal injury cases.

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