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Family members receive compensation after witnessing the traumatic death of a relative following her negligent discharge from hospital

Two family members suffered psychiatric damage after watching their relative collapse after negligent hospital discharge.

Posted on 14 August 2018

Two clients of Leigh Day, Yvonne and Shawna Gordon, have received compensation after suffering psychiatric damage as a result of witnessing the traumatic death of their relative, Harmony Tucker, following her negligent discharge from City Hospital in Birmingham. 

Harmony, 37, was diagnosed with an enlarged thyroid gland in 2009 for which she was receiving treatment at hospital. In June 2012, she attended her GP feeling breathless and tired, and was referred back to hospital. 

She was diagnosed as suffering from thyrotoxicosis (an excess of thyroid hormone) and prescribed further medication. Despite this, Harmony remained unwell and on 25 June 2012 an ambulance was called as a result of pain in her right arm and chest and she was taken to hospital. 

Harmony was again diagnosed as suffering from thyrotoxicosis. A Consultant Endocrinologist examined her and ordered an x-ray and change in medication. However, on the following day, 26 June 2012, Harmony was discharged and sent home without having had the chest x-ray and without a further review from the endocrinology team. 

Later that evening Harmony deteriorated and began coughing up a frothy substance. An ambulance was called in the early hours of 27 June 2012. As the ambulance arrived Harmony suffered a respiratory collapse. Both her mother Yvonne and daughter Shawna witnessed this traumatic series of events. 

The ambulance took Harmony to hospital but despite attempts at resuscitation she went into cardio-respiratory arrest and was pronounced dead a short time later. 

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust initially denied that it had been negligent when it discharged Harmony on 26 June 2012. However, it later accepted that the decision to discharge without having undertaken a physical examination and/or performing a chest x-ray did fall below an acceptable standard of care. It also admitted that if Harmony had remained in hospital, her subsequent deterioration would have been recognised and treated, and her death could have been avoided. A settlement amount was subsequently paid to Harmony’s estate.

Despite the above, the hospital vehemently denied any claim in respect of psychiatric damage suffered by Yvonne and Shawna as a result of witnessing Harmony’s death. The case was continued until shortly before trial, when the hospital agreed to pay a substantial five figure sum in settlement of the claims on a no admission basis. 

Medical negligence solicitors at Leigh Day acting for the claimants, Suzanne White and Matthew Westlake, said:

“We are pleased we were able to achieve a good outcome for Yvonne and Shawna, although clearly no amount of money can ever truly compensate for their loss, nor the horrific ordeal they had to endure as a result of the hospital’s admitted negligence. 

“It is a great shame the hospital trust felt it necessary to draw out this case for a number of years at great expense to both the public purse and the mental wellbeing of our clients."