Admission of liability for failure to recognise a pulmonary embolism

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence solicitors have secured an admission of liability from an NHS hospital after they failed to recognise the signs of pulmonary embolism which resulted in the death of a 70 year old woman.

The deceased attended the hospital’s accident and emergency department complaining of a cough, shortness of breath and feeling unwell for three months. Antibiotic treatment from her GP had not helped and she had lost a stone in weight over the previous month. Initial blood test results were abnormal and a D-dimer test (measuring levels of the proteins which are released into the blood when a blood clot breaks up) was significantly raised. These results were clear indications of venous thromboembolism - the deceased was suffering from a blood clot.

Further investigations, including a chest x-ray and a CT pulmonary angiogram, suggested that the deceased was suffering from a pulmonary embolism (a clot in the pulmonary artery which carries blood from the heart to the lungs) but these results were misinterpreted. The correct medical treatment of this condition would have been to give anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) treatment but the deceased was incorrectly diagnosed with bronchial asthma. She was given an inhaler and discharged home.

Four days later the deceased went to see her GP complaining of an overnight cough and was prescribed an inhaler. In the early hours of the following morning she was taken by ambulance to the same defendant hospital’s A&E. Her shortness of breath was getting worse, her pulse and respiratory rate were abnormally fast and her blood pressure and oxygen saturations were low. On admission to hospital an electrocardiogram (ECG) showed classical features of pulmonary embolism and her blood gas results were abnormal. She was given antibiotics but no action was taken on the abnormal D-dimer and other test results from her hospital attendance five days earlier. She died later that morning from a cardiac arrest. A post-mortem identified the cause of death to be deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

At the inquest the Coroner’s verdict was that the deceased had died of ‘natural causes to which neglect contributed’. Evidence given at the inquest suggested that the defendant hospital medical staff had not appreciated the significance of the abnormally high D-dimer result. If the result had been acted upon properly, the deceased would have been given anti-coagulant treatment on her first hospital admission and this would have prevented her death from the pulmonary embolism. Continued failings in her subsequent care led to further missed opportunities to treat this life-threatening condition.

The deceased’s family sought help from Boyes Turner’s medical negligence lawyers who agreed to handle the case on a conditional fee (no win no fee) agreement. After investigating the claim, the case was put to the defendant NHS hospital, whose lawyers have now admitted liability for the deceased’s death.

Boyes Turner’s specialist solicitors are now arranging for judgment to be entered and are working with the family to quantify the full value of the claim for the deceased’s dependent husband. 

The service was personal, professional and considered. I was treated so kindly and in the end I knew that not only had I found the right organisation but also the right person.

Boyes Turner client

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