Clinical Negligence

Patient recovers compensation for delayed diagnosis of Graves Disease

Centre of expertise in interventional cardiology and specialist electrophysiology pays compensation after a negligent delay in the treatment of a cardiac arrhythmia.

Jonathan Herbert, specialist clinical negligence lawyer acting for the patient successfully secured compensation in a claim against St Thomas’ Hospital in London, for seventeen months of severe cardiac symptoms involving two invasive medical procedures.  St Thomas’ Hospital failed to diagnose that the patient’s cardiac symptoms were due to an overactive thyroid, in turn caused by Graves Disease.  The hospital’s negligent failures caused a significant delay in her treatment, unnecessarily prolonged her recovery and caused the claimant to suffer an adverse emotional reaction due to the fear of what damage might have been caused by the delay.

While pregnant with her second child, Miss M, (who has a family history of thyroid issues on both sides) suffered with cardiac arrhythmia.  She was three months pregnant when she went to her GP with light headedness, dizziness, racing heart, palpitations, nausea, shortness of breath, tight chest and hand shaking.  Her first pregnancy was normal.

Miss P went to her GP who took an ECG which was abnormal so he referred her on her private health insurance to Somerfield Hospital.  She saw a consultant who took some more ECGs and confirmed that she needed to be admitted for treatment.  She was admitted to Maidstone Hospital who gave her medication via an IV drip.  She remained on the ward for five days before being discharged with tablets.

After Miss M gave birth to her first child, her consultant expected her heart rate to return to normal but it did not so she had another ECG.  She was told to keep taking the medication and to expect regular check-ups and to wear a monitor for twenty four to forty eight hours at a time to get readings.

Two and a half years later, Miss M was referred to St Thomas’ Hospital.  She was told she needed an ablation (a procedure performed under local anaesthesia) because of her cardiac arrhythmia.  She underwent such procedure and was told to wait for three months to see if her heart rhythm returned to normal.  When she went for a check-up a few months later, it was confirmed that the ablation had not worked.

Three months later, Miss M underwent another ablation.  This time she said that experience was much worse and she could felt unwell for over a week.  Miss M’s GP prescribed steroids.

Miss M’s heart was noted to still not be back to its normal rhythm so at a later consultation it was decided that she would have a third ablation but this time, under general anaesthetic.

A blood sample was taken for testing and the outcome of that was that Miss M was told that she did not have any heart problems but she had an overactive thyroid caused by Graves Disease and she was told further that if that was left untreated, it could lead to a heart attack.  She was given medication to treat this.

Miss M suffered untreated overactive thyroid symptoms and underwent two ablation procedures, the latter being so unpleasant that it was arranged that the third procedure should take place under general anaesthetic.  She also suffered weight loss and emotional distress.  She was told at least twice by treating clinicians that her eventual treatment would have been different and the procedures avoided had her thyroid function had been tested earlier when it should have been.  The discovery of the errors had a significant impact on Miss M’s mental health.  She was informed by doctors in the endocrinology department that if her condition had been untreated it could have led to a heart attack.  She was worried that the delayed diagnosis of an overactive thyroid may have prejudiced its successful treatment.  St Thomas’ Hospital recorded that Miss M was in an emotionally distressed state before the error was corrected.

St Thomas’ Hospital admitted the errors were negligent.  Jonathan was instructed to seek compensation.  He investigated the extent to which Miss M’s condition had been compromised and then negotiated a settlement of the compensation claim without the need to issue proceedings.

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