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12 year old receives 6-figure sum after death of father from an undiagnosed heart attack

A 47 year old man died after showing typical heart attack symptoms that were missed by the hospital

ECG monitor

18 June 2018

A 12-year-old girl, known only as Polly to protect her identity, has received a six-figure settlement after the death of her father, Alexander aged 47, following the failure of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to recognise that he was experiencing a heart attack.  

Alexander arrived at A&E complaining of chest pain that radiated down his left arm and up into his neck. He was assessed by a nurse, who requested blood tests and an ECG. The ECG showed he was experiencing a myocardial infarction (a heart attack).  

Despite displaying typical symptoms, the diagnosis was not made and Alexander was not referred to the cardiology unit, but instead was placed in an A&E cubicle, where he was discovered around 15 minutes later, having collapsed following a cardiac arrest. Resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful and he was declared dead approximately two hours after walking into A&E.

The Hospital Trust’s internal report noted that the results of the ECG ‘should have triggered immediate management of the patient in accordance with the “chest pain” pathway’. It also identified various remedial actions to be taken, including that ‘the A&E Consultant who reviewed the patient’s ECG undertake[s] additional training regarding the interpretation of ECGs’.

Polly’s mother instructed Leigh Day medical negligence solicitor Kirsten Wall to investigate a claim for Polly.  The Trust admitted that the care that Alexander received was substandard as they should have recognised that he was suffering from a myocardial infarction.  

However, the Trust defended the claim on the basis that their failures in the A&E Department did not cause Alexander’s death because they said that they would not have been unable to successfully treat him even if they had made the diagnosis, despite the Hospital being a regional heart attack centre.

Formal court proceedings were therefore commenced.  The Trust continued to defend the claim until four months before trial when a six figure settlement was agreed and approved by the Court.   

Kirsten says, “this was a very sad case where the opportunity to prevent Alexander from having a fatal heart attack was missed by the simple misinterpretation of an ECG.  The fact he was having a heart attack should have been easy to diagnose.  Instead, this failure, means that Polly has to grow up without her beloved father”.  

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