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Almost £1m for man who suffered spinal injury during treatment for heart condition

A man has received almost £1 million in compensation in a legal claim against his GP following allegations that inappropriate medication was prescribed to treat his cardiac condition.

Posted on 29 February 2024

The man, who we have called David, was previously active and independent before experiencing an increasing shortness of breath.

David’s GP diagnosed atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes an irregular and abnormally fast heart rate and prescribed Digoxin, a medication used to control heart problems in certain situations.

In the weeks following, David noted that his condition had not improved, and had even worsened. He began to experience excessive tiredness, increasing shortness of breath, and a “fizzing” feeling in his head.

The GP increased the Digoxin dosage but after a bad night’s sleep in early September, David woke up feeling even worse. His wife rushed him for an appointment at the surgery. This time he was seen by a different practitioner who advised halting Digoxin immediately and prescribed a different treatment.

A day later, David lost consciousness and hit his head as he fell to the floor. An ambulance took him to hospital, where he had surgery to treat a resulting cervical spinal injury.

After a lengthy period as an inpatient, David was eventually discharged from hospital, though continued to suffer weakness in his arms and legs, significantly impaired mobility, and bowel and bladder dysfunction, which meant he needed daily care.

David turned to law firm Leigh Day to bring a claim against the GP for potential negligence. The defendant denied liability in full, however Leigh Day's investigation into David’s case found that the GP had prescribed Digoxin despite explicit advice that this should only be given as “monotherapy in predominantly sedentary patients.” It was argued that David had been active at the time and could not properly have been described as sedentary.

David’s condition is expected to deteriorate in the future and is likely to have a detrimental impact on his life expectancy. A final settlement of £975,000 was agreed before going to trial, which will compensate David not only for the alleged mistreatment of his cardiac condition, but also for the impact caused by the complications he encountered post-operatively.

David and his wife said:

“Our heartfelt thanks to you for your efforts on our behalf. I have been extremely impressed by the way you couple professionalism with approachability. At all times you showed patience and took time to explain things clearly. Your pleasant and supportive manner enabled me to continue to engage in the process, especially in this past challenging year. I felt absolute trust in you doing your best for us.”

Matthew Westlake, Leigh Day clinical negligence solicitor who represents David, said:

“Patients such as David should feel confident that their GP will provide the best treatment for them, but unfortunately David suffered greatly after taking the medication prescribed to him. I am pleased that we were able to help David achieve such a substantial settlement that will hopefully go some way towards making up for what he has been through and help him feel a sense of closure.”

Matthew Westlake
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Surgical negligence

Matthew Westlake

Matthew Westlake is a senior associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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