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2 minutes reading time (480 words)

Hospitals Must Pay for The Mistakes They Make

Richard Barr, clinical negligence lawyer at Scott-Moncrieff, says that hospitals do wonderful work, but when they cause injury through substandard treatment they should admit their fault and settle compensation claims.

“One case on which I worked involved Emma, whose symptoms began with nothing worse than an aching shoulder,” says Richard. “Due to a hospital’s negligence, a relatively minor tumour turned into a catastrophic injury.”

Emma was a hairdresser, so her GP initially thought her aching shoulder was a work injury. She was sent home with painkillers, but her symptoms worsened and spread, so she returned to her doctor.

Tests showed immune system anomalies and the GP correctly made an urgent referral to hospital. When no appointment came through – despite Emma’s symptoms worsening day by day – her GP requested a hospital admission. By this time Emma was suffering night sweats and was having difficulty walking.

In hospital a junior doctor quickly recognised the need for Emma to have a full body MRI scan, but she was overruled and, after three days in hospital, Emma was discharged without follow-up

Over the next few weeks her suffering worsened and eventually she could only sleep in a wheelchair, such was the discomfort she felt.

Then Emma lost the feeling below her waist and she was admitted to the same hospital, this time as an emergency. Too late, she was diagnosed with a tumour on her spine and transferred to a specialist hospital but by then she had become paralysed below the waist.

Fighting a claim to pay for the mistakes made that affected Emma’s life for ever

Despite careful surgery, the damage caused by the tumour had gone too far. Emma will be doubly incontinent and have no function in her legs for the rest of her life.

Her life was changed for ever and she needed funds to pay for an adapted home, as well as for care and support for the rest of her life.

The hospital denied liability, despite obvious evidence of negligence, and Emma was forced to take proceedings in order to press her claim.

Expert evidence obtained by Richard concluded that had Emma’s condition been treated properly, even a few days earlier, she would still be walking now.

Despite its denial of negligence, Richard won the claim against the hospital which settled on the basis of a substantial lump sum payment and a regular (inflation-proofed) annual payment for the rest of Emma’s life to cover her needs. This was essential not least for the specially-adapted house Emma had to have built.

Richard concludes:

“Of course, it was good to win substantial compensation for Emma, but money never mends an injury and everyone would prefer to be fit and healthy. However, it does help Emma to have a reasonable quality of life, which she would not have done had she not brought a successful claim against the hospital.”

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