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Family receive damages following death of woman from jaundice

A mother who had jaundice died in hospital following a biopsy on her liver

Negligent medical care led to woman

1 December 2014

The husband and four young children of a woman known only as Mrs X have secured compensation for the negligent medical care she received which led to her death. 

Mrs X complained to her GP of abdominal pain and vomiting in May. She returned a few days later and was seen by the practice nurse who noted that she was jaundiced. 

The practice nurse reported the jaundice to Mrs X’s GP who advised that if Mrs X felt unwell over the weekend she should go to A&E.

It was never explained to Mrs X the seriousness of her condition, and that she needed urgent referral to hospital.

Mrs X returned to the surgery on 17 December, when she saw a locum doctor, who noted that she was jaundiced. 

The doctor arranged for Ms X to have blood tests, but although the results were back in the surgery on 21st December, Mrs X was not informed of the results which showed that Mrs X was suffering from abnormal liver function.

Mrs X attended her GP on 2 January and was immediately admitted to Ealing Hospital.

Over the next six days, she underwent a number of blood tests, and ultrasounds were performed on the liver. However, her liver function remained grossly abnormal.

Mrs X was given vitamin K to reverse the clotting abnormalities in her liver, and a decision was made to carry out a liver biopsy. 

There was no investigation into whether the clotting abnormalities had been corrected, and a biopsy was carried out on 10 January. 

Unfortunately after the biopsy was carried out Mrs X began to bleed profusely and her blood pressure fell.

She was given intravenous fluid replacement and a blood transfusion but her condition continued to deteriorate.

She was then transferred to theatre for an emergency laparotomy.  During the operation, the surgeons found a large amount of blood in her abdomen.

Mrs X again returned to theatre on 11 January but the doctors were unable to stop the bleeding. Sadly Mrs X’s condition continued to deteriorate and she went into multi organ failure and died later that day.

Liability was accepted by Ealing Hospital and the case was satisfactorily settled without the need to go to trial.

Olive Lewin from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day said:

“Mrs X’s death was avoidable and was due to the negligent management of her jaundice.  I can only hope that the hospital has learnt lessons from this tragedy which simply should not have happened.

"Four young children have been left without a mother and will suffer that loss for the rest of their lives, as will Mrs X’s husband.”

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