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Seven-figure settlement for woman left with debilitating neurological condition following bariatric surgery

A woman has received more than £2.7 million in settlement from Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust after she suffered an extreme nutritional deficiency following weight loss surgery.

Posted on 28 May 2021

The deficiency, which was not properly identified and treated, led to the woman, who we have called Molly, developing Wernicke’s encephalopathy, a debilitating neurological condition which affects vision, balance and mobility.

Molly will be unable to work or live her life independently. She is unable to have more children and relies on her partner for care and she has required more suitable accommodation.

Molly was referred for bariatric surgery by her GP in 2014. She had a gastric sleeve which was successful but immediately afterwards Molly began to suffer pain and nausea. However, she was provided with a dietary plan and was discharged from hospital.

Her condition deteriorated and she was vomiting around 15-16 times per day. Molly contacted the hospital several times but was told to keep to her dietary plan and to not eat any solid foods.

Finally, a month after surgery when Molly attended an out-of-hours clinic she was readmitted to hospital and given IV fluids. However, even after various scans were performed, no diagnosis was provided and Molly was sent home with a prescription to treat indigestion.

Her condition improved slightly but she continued to vomit and when she contacted her dietician again a few weeks later, she was told to attend her GP if she did not improve.

Eventually, Molly attended the Emergency Department as she was feeling dizzy and nauseous and was admitted. Two days later she was reviewed by a General Surgeon and later reviewed by an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist who noted complaints of a low-pitched humming noise in her ears and deterioration in vision. She underwent an MRI scan which revealed no abnormalities.

It was not for another four days, when Molly was reviewed by a Consultant Neurologist, that she was diagnosed with a thiamine deficiency secondary to her surgery. She was immediately started on IV thiamine and her condition improved. She was discharged a week later.

Unfortunately, the damage caused by the thiamine deficiency was largely irreversible. Molly suffers from a range of problems with her vision and mobility including a condition called oscillopsia where she has a sensation that everything around her is constantly moving, as well as double vision and a vertical deviation, all of which contribute to a feeling that she is constantly spinning. Molly’s depression and anxiety have significantly worsened following her injuries and she requires extensive care and support.

Leigh Day medical negligence partner, Brendan Hope secured over £2.7 million settlement for Molly by identifying the various failings in the Hospital’s pre- and post-operative care.

We argued that Molly was not properly advised before the operation and was not properly monitored in the period after surgery and her nutritional deficiency should have been identified when she was readmitted twice with vomiting and dizziness.

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust accepted that they failed to diagnose and treat Molly’s thiamine deficiency when she was re-admitted to hospital the second time and admitted that had they started treatment at that point she would have made a full recovery. They did not accept that they should have diagnosed Molly on her first readmission, or that there were failings with the pre-operative care.

The final settlement figure provides financial security for Molly and her family for the rest of her life, allowing for suitable accommodation, appropriate therapies, transport, and any future treatment.

Brendan Hope said:

“The Trust had a number of opportunities to identify Molly’s condition and treat it before she suffered any long-term injury. As a result of their errors, Molly has been left with permanent disabilities which affect every aspect of her life. I was pleased to be able to assist Molly in obtaining damages that will allow her to have support and therapy that she needs to help deal with her condition.”

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Brendan Hope
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Brendan Hope

Brendan is an experienced clinical negligence lawyer

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