A grieving family of a stroke victim have received a £45,000 NHS payout after bungling doctors kept her alive for almost two years against her will.
Great-grandmother Brenda Grant, 81, suffered a stroke that left her unable to walk, talk or swallow in October 2012.
Without telling her family, she made a living will, also known as an advanced healthcare directive, instructing doctors not to ‘prolong her life’ if she was unlikely to recover.
The mother of four said she feared ‘degradation and indignity more than death’ after seeing her own mother lose independence after suffering from dementia.
Brenda Grant, pictured, suffered a stroke in 2012 that left her unable to walk or talk and made a living will telling doctors not to ‘prolong her life’, only for staff at George Eliot Hospital, in Nuneaton to lose the document
The document said Mrs Grant should not have treatment to prolong her life if: ‘If I suffer from one or more of the conditions mentioned in the schedule, and I have become unable to participate effectively in decisions about my medical care, and that two independent doctors (one a consultant) are of the opinion that I am unlikely to recover from illness or impairment involving severe distress or incapacity for rational existence.’
It also confirmed she should not be given food, but that distressing symptoms should be controlled by pain relief.
But doctors at the George Eliot Hospital, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, lost the document among a pile of medical notes so she was fed through a tube for 22 months.
She was fitted with a stomach peg to enable her to receive food artificially before she was discharged into a nursing home.
Once in the nursing home, former Marks and Spencer shop assistant Mrs Grant became agitated and tried to pull out the tubes in her arm, prompting staff to put mittens on her hands.
She was re-admitted to hospital at which point her GP made the hospital and her family aware of her living will.
After appealing to the hospital to respect their mother’s wishes, all treatment was withdrawn and Mrs Grant, from Nuneaton, died on August 4, 2014.
Following her death, Mrs Grant’s family launched legal action against the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust claiming they had breached their mother’s legal rights.
The trust apologised for its failure and admitted liability and the family were awarded £45,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
Her daughter Tracy Barker, pictured, said her mother ‘feared being kept alive in a nursing home’ after the family won a £45,000 payout from the NHS over the blunder
Mrs Grant’s daughter Tracy Barker, 55, said: ‘She had a fear of being kept alive because she had a fear of going into a nursing home.
‘She never wanted to be a burden to anybody, so she wouldn’t have wanted any of us to look after her.
‘I’m very, very angry with myself that I let my mum suffer for two years that she didn’t need to suffer for.
‘I didn’t want my mum to die, nobody wants their mum to die.
‘But my mum died the day she had that stroke because she was never, ever capable of doing anything that she did before.
HOW A LIVING WILL WORKS
Living wills allow people to detail their wishes for certain medical situations, such as if they have dementia or lose the ability to communicate.
They usually explain how a person wants to be treated in order to be comfortable and may include a list of treatments that they do or do not want to receive.
It also allows a person to refuse medical treatment even if it may result in death.
Living wills, also known as advance healthcare decisions, are legally binding which means carers are compelled to follow the instructions.
But they only come into force once a person is held to no longer have the capacity to make their own decisions on treatment.
Copies of living wills should be given to GPs and members of a person’s medical or care team. It is good practice to write them down and sign and date them.
Anyone who wants to refuse life-saving treatment in a living will must make it in writing and have it signed, witnessed and include the statement ‘even if life is at risk as a result’.
‘I know she would not have wanted to live like she was.’
Mrs Barker said she had sought legal advice to highlight the case so the same thing did not happen to others.
Richard Stanford, a medical negligence solicitor from law firm BTTJ, said: ‘It was a really interesting case, we instructed a human rights barrister very early on because the case appeared to be unique.’
The George Eliot Hospital Trust admitted liability and in an out-of-court settlement agreed to pay £45,000.
In a letter, it stated: ‘It is accepted that the trust failed to act in accordance with the deceased’s advanced directive and failed to store the advanced directive in a way that it could easily be noted.’
The trust said it had now begun recording the existence of an advanced directive on the front page of a patient’s notes.