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Multi-million-pound settlement secured for man left paralysed following missed diabetes diagnosis

A man who developed a spinal cord abscess after a failure to diagnose his diabetes has been secured a multi-million-pound settlement.

Posted on 27 November 2023

Mr M, a fit and healthy 49-year-old man who played basketball, was a football coach for a community team, and cycled regularly.

In 2011 he was invited by his GP surgery in London to come in for a cardiovascular assessment. The nurse took blood and gave dietary advice.

A blood test taken at the same time revealed raised glucose levels, but no action was taken to address the issue. Mr M attended the GP surgery on a number of occasions for various reasons over the next five years, and although the raised glucose levels were an outstanding item which would have been flagged on the front page of his digital notes, still no action was taken.

In early August 2016, Mr M had difficulty passing urine, and he developed severe neck pain and stiffness which intensified over a five-day period and was not relieved by painkillers.

On 17 August 2016, he found he could not eat or drink, his legs became weak, and twice suffered a fall. Mr M was taken by ambulance to the Accident and Emergency department in excruciating pain. On admission, he was described as having slightly reduced power in the upper and lower limbs. Investigations showed that his blood glucose was extremely high, and he had sepsis. The doctor who he initially saw queried whether he also had inflammation or an infection in his neck, but these suggestions were not followed up.

Mr M started treatment for the raised glucose with antibiotics and fluids. The plan was to have an MRI scan of the spine the following day. However, in the early hours of the following morning, Mr M suffered a respiratory arrest and had to be resuscitated. He was taken to the Acute Coronary Care Unit where it was noted there was severe weakness in his arms and legs. Subsequently, he deteriorated and required ventilator support. He did not have his MRI until two days after admission. The MRI showed a massive spinal abscess in his neck compressing the spinal cord. Urgent neurosurgical referral was made, and he underwent an emergency operation later that day to drain the abscess. The pus was from a bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus Aureus. Mr M has been left paralysed from the neck down.

Mr M was represented in a civil claim against the GP surgery and the Hospital Trust by Leigh Day clinical negligence team partner, Olive Lewin.

She argued that Mr M’s diabetes should have been diagnosed several years before the emergency admission to hospital. Although liability was not admitted, the claim was settled for several million pounds.

Partner Olive Lewin said:

“It was our view and argument that there were several missed opportunities where our client could have been diagnosed with diabetes. He would then have been monitored and received treatment that we argued would have prevented his life-changing injuries.

“I am pleased that we have been able to achieve this substantial sum to help our client to access the care that he needs.”

Counsel instructed were John Whitting KC and Suzanne Lambert at 1 Crown Office Row

Olive Lewin (1)
Amputation Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Misdiagnosis Spinal injury Surgical negligence

Olive Lewin

Olive is an experienced healthcare lawyer who has specialised in the field for more than 25 years, having previously trained as a nurse

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