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Hospital negligence results in pay-out for young woman whose fertility was threatened when her appendicitis was missed

Clinical negligence lawyer Emmalene Bushnell secures compensation after London hospital misdiagnosed appendicitis

Posted on 06 June 2012

Clinical negligence solicitor Emmalene Bushnell of Leigh Day & Co is pleased to have been able to recover a significant sum of compensation for Helen, who suffered injuries as the result of a failure to diagnose and treat appendicitis by the Whittington Hospital.

Helen went to her GP at the end of August 2005 complaining of lower cramping abdominal pain and pain on urinating. She was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and prescribed a course of antibiotics. She went back to her GP on 1 September 2005 complaining of abdominal pain, bloating and some nausea.  Following an examination by her GP, she was referred to Accident and Emergency at the Hospital.  Her pain was, in fact, because of a haemorrhagic cyst and acute appendicitis.

Unfortunately, despite numerous examinations by the general surgeons at the Hospital and Helen having “classic” symptoms of appendicitis, the Hospital failed to realise that she was suffering from appendicitis.  Instead they just treated the haemorrhagic cyst and discharged her home.  Whilst at home Helen’s appendix perforated and she developed peritonitis leading to re-admission to the Hospital by ambulance on 4th September 2005. She underwent exploratory surgery on 5th September 2005 when appendicitis was finally diagnosed and her appendix removed.

Helen continued to deteriorate and was transferred to St John & St Elizabeth Hospital on 9th September 2005 by her parents who were frustrated by the poor treatment at the Hospital. Helen remained unwell, requiring further exploratory surgery laparotomy and drainage of a pelvic cyst, admission to intensive care and a vacuum pump, to drain fluid.  The vacuum pump remained in situ following her discharge from hospital at the end of September 2005 until January 2006. Helen subsequently developed an incisional hernia on the site of her laparotomy wound and underwent a repair of the incisional hernia together with re-fashioning of her umbilicus in September 2006.

Emmalene obtained expert evidence from a general surgeon and a gynaecologist.  Our case was that the general surgeons who saw Helen on her first admission on 1st September 2005 wrongly excluded, dismissed and/or failed to continue to consider acute appendicitis as a cause of Helen’s pain.  Our case was that Helen should have undergone further investigations to exclude appendicitis including an urgent scan, which would have revealed an inflamed appendix leading to a diagnosis of appendicitis.  With proper treatment Helen would have undergone surgery on the evening of 2nd September.  She would then have avoided the subsequent injuries she suffered.  She would have returned to normal activity and quality of life by the end of September 2005.

Compensation was claimed for the considerable pain, suffering and losses Helen suffered as a result of the delay in diagnosis including the development of peritonitis, extensive surgery, bowel perforation leading to abscess and further surgery, stormy post-operative recovery, incisional hernia, cosmetic problems and fertility problems arising out of the adhesions following the diagnosis of peritonitis. Helen also required a substantial amount of care from her parents and also had to repeat a semester at university.

The claim was eventually settled by the Trust for a considerable sum of money.  Whilst there was no admission of liability, an apology was issued by the Chief Executive of Whittington Hospital.

Helen, commenting on the settlement afterwards said,

"Many thanks to Leigh Day and Co, especially Emmalene and Nicola Wainwright, with whom I worked closely. After this terrible ordeal, I felt alone and angry, wondering why it had happened in the first place. I approached Leigh Day & Co in the hope that I would get some answers, raise awareness and get the Hospital to take responsibility for what had happened to me. I received enough compensation to ensure that I am able to pay for the best fertility treatment and aftercare if I am able to achieve pregnancy. Any money left over, I plan to use as a deposit for a flat. Most importantly, I felt a sense of closure and I am now steadily moving forward."