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Woman in her 40s wins £11million compensation after NHS blunder

Woman in her 40s wins £11million compensation from NHS hospital after anaesthetic blunder during routine Achilles operation left her severely brain damaged

  • Victim, referred to as Deborah, had routine surgery at North Middlesex Hospital
  • A drug administered to wake her up post-surgery resulted in her oxygen cut off 
  • The woman in her 40s was awarded £11m after suffering life-altering disabilities

A woman who underwent routine surgery has been awarded £11 million in compensation after an anaesthetic blunder left her severely brain damaged.

The victim, referred to in the tribunal report as Deborah, had surgery on her Achilles tendon at North Middlesex Hospital, in London, that resulted in her needing round the clock care at home.

Prior to surgery, the woman in her 40s led an active lifestyle and held down an executive job, but a drug administered post-surgery caused oxygen supply to her brain to be cut off.  

The victim, referred to in the tribunal report as Deborah, had surgery on her Achilles tendon at North Middlesex Hospital, in London, that resulted in her needing round the clock care

The catastrophic error was made at the end of her operation when the anaesthetist found that Deborah was slow to wake up so she was administered the respiratory stimulant Doxapram.

Doxapram is only effective for a short amount of time, and one of the risks of its use is that it can wear off before the effects of the drug it is being used to reverse.

The tribunal found that the the Doxapram wore off before the patients own respiratory system had returned to full function, depriving her of oxygen.

Fifteen minutes later, Deborah went into cardiac arrest and suffered brain damage.   

The damages were awarded to the victim when lawyers listed on her behalf the series of issues she now faces day to day.

Because of her injuries she has motor and cognitive impairments which involve major difficulties in memory, mental speed and limited insight into her condition. 

Her motor impairment involves slowness of movement, difficulty with fine finger movements and problems with balance, meaning she is constantly at risk of falling.

She tires easily, and has lost her sense of taste and chokes on liquids. She has also developed a condition that causes involuntary muscle jerks called myoclonus.

In her legal case, lawyers argued that the anesthetist ought to have been aware of this danger and instructed the recovery room nurse both of the fact that Doxopram had been given, and that there was a need for close monitoring of her breathing.  

It is believed that either this instruction was not given or, if it was given, it was not heeded. 

Brain injury specialist solicitor Olive Lewin of Leigh Day started a claim against North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust, which has responsibility for North Middlesex University Hospital.

The legal claim alleged that on the balance of probabilities the cardiac arrest would have been avoided by direct observation, close monitoring and early detection of respiratory problems. 

Had the cardiac arrest been prevented Deborah would have been uninjured. Liability was admitted at an early stage.

Ms Lewin said: ‘This was a particularly devastating case of negligence. My client went into the hospital a fit and healthy woman for a relatively simple operation. 

‘Due to failings in her care her life has been completely changed and she now requires 24-hour care.

‘Not only is she not able do a job or to take part in the sports she loves, but she cannot live independently. 

‘I am pleased we managed to secure compensation which will help provide for her care needs going forward.’


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