On 22 October 1997, Derek was seen at Kent & Canterbury Hospital. He was 12 at the time and was known to have a Grade 2-36 apical pan systolic murmur and a ventricular septal defect.
Derek was placed on the semi-urgent waiting list at the Royal Brompton Hospital for surgical repair of the coarctation, where he was admitted on 2 December 1997.
During the operation, for reasons unexplained, Derek was given the then normal potassium level, Derek was given 5% dextrose, 20mls fluid containing potassium chloride at a dose of 40mmol. An 18mm graft was inserted distal to the subclavian artery, bypassing the coarctation.
Following the surgery Derek's potassium levels were abnormally high. It was over three hours before medication was prescribed to reduce these levels.
Despite the introduction of Frusemide and a transfusion of packed cells the potassium levels remained high, and at or about 21.10hrs Derek suffered a cardiac arrest due to high potassium levels.
Resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful and Derek was certified dead at 22.10hrs.
We acted on behalf of Derek’s parents. Proceedings were issued alleging that there was a failure to treat Derek’s rising potassium levels and that had Derek’s potassium levels been managed appropriately, Derek’s death was preventable.
The defence admitted liability but denied the parent’s claim for damages for psychiatric injury. Following negotiations, Derek's case eventually settled in the sum of £53,000.00.
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