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Case Study

Failure to discuss alternative treatment leads to settlement for family of man left in PVS state

Jonathan Zimmern successfully concluded a case for the family of Jack Wilson, who was left in a Permanent Vegetative State and later died following a laser resection of a hypopharyngeal tumour performed at Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Jack was diagnosed with sarcoma of the pharyngeal wall – a rare tumour in the deep soft tissue - and successfully underwent laser resection in 2004 at Royal Sussex County Hospital. He was stable for nearly 10 years.

During a review in 2014, however, a small growth was noted in his oesophagus and Jack was advised to undergo a further laser resection procedure. He was not told of the alternative, conservative treatment approaches available to him.

Immediately following the procedure, Jack complained of difficulty breathing and later started to cough up blood. The nursing team contacted the on-call doctor who advised that, as long as he was not ‘bleeding actively’, there was nothing to worry about.  Jack collapsed later that night and required urgent surgery, during which several large blood clots were found in his airway which had resulted from the operation. Unfortunately Jack suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury and was diagnosed as being in a PVS.

Various neurological tests concluded that Jack was still able to hear and feel pain, but could not communicate in any way. He was transferred to a care home where he received 24-hour care before he sadly died.

Jonathan instructed a Consultant ENT Surgeon and together they were able to demonstrate that the decision to offer the laser resection procedure in the first instance, the failure to inform Jack of a conservative treatment approach and the failure to acknowledge the severity of his post-operative symptoms were all unacceptable.

He concluded that, with appropriate treatment, Jack would either not have undergone the procedure at all or the blood clots which ultimately blocked his airway would have been diagnosed and treated far sooner.

The Trust admitted they had failed to adequately explain the risks and benefits of the laser resection, but disagreed that Jack would have chosen a conservative treatment approach had he been given this information.

They accepted that the post-operative care provided was substandard. After a period of negotiation Jonathan was able to agree a settlement of £365,000 for Jack’s family.

Contact us

For further information about surgery negligence claims and medical negligence claims, please call Jonathan Zimmern on 020 7861 4218 or email jonathan.zimmern@fieldfisher.com.

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