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Widow receives £95,000 following husband’s death following surgery

Compensation secured for the family of a man who developed pneumonia after surgery

Bacteria on petri dish

23 September 2014

The widow of a man who suffered a cardiac arrest and died from MRSA bronchopneumonia, when a hospital failed to screen and treat him for MRSA before surgery, has been awarded £95,000 in compensation.

In May 2010, Mr D underwent total laryngectomy for laryngeal cancer at Stoke City General Hospital.  

Mr D had screened positive for MRSA in the nose in August 2009, in the throat and groin in November 2009, on the neck in November 2009 and on the nose and perineum less than a week before surgery.  

Despite this, surgery was carried out without him being treated with any prophylactic antibiotics effective against MRSA. It transpired at the Inquest into Mr D’s death that neither the anaesthetist or the surgeon were aware of the history of MRSA despite clear documentation in the medical records. 

Following surgery, Mr D’s condition deteriorated, he experienced high temperatures and a rising heart rate.  His breathing became worse and he grew delirious and pale.  Despite being diabetic, his blood sugars were not monitored.  

Mr D’s deterioration was not acted upon until the early hours of 15 May 2010 when a junior doctor carried out the first post-operative chest examination.  By this stage Mr D was extremely unwell with a very fast heart rate. He was breathless, shaking and required increasing amounts of oxygen.  

Investigations were carried out and following ITU review the likely diagnosis was post-operative pneumonia.

Eventually, antibiotics were started.  

Mr D’s family arrived at the hospital to find him struggling to breathe.  He told his wife that he loved her and then suffered a cardiac arrest from which he could not be resuscitated. 

A legal claim was brought against the University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust by the medical negligence team at Leigh Day on the basis that Mr D was not screened and treated for MRSA in accordance with the hospital’s own guidelines and all accepted practice.  

Mr D should have been screened two to four weeks before surgery to allow for decontamination treatment.  He should also have been given appropriate prophylactic antibiotics at the time of induction of anaesthesia.  This would have avoided the MRSA pneumonia and therefore death.  

It was further alleged that the ward treatment was substandard and that there was a persistent failure to escalate Mr D’s care and to take into consideration the various conditions from which he suffered.  It was also argued that pre-operative optimisation and post-operative treatment would have meant that he did not succumb to the MRSA pneumonia. 

The defendant admitted liability for Mr D’s death and following negotiations, Mr D’s widow accepted a figure of £95,000 which included an amount for her own claim for psychiatric damage as a secondary victim. 

Ellen Parry a lawyer in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, who represented Mr D’s widow, said:

“This case really highlighted the need for thorough inquests as some of the information would not have come to light without the coronial inquiry.

“Whilst there are always limits to such inquiries, it is clearly imperative to families of the deceased to get as much as possible from the process, regardless of any claim which may or may not follow.” 

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