We pursued a GP negligence claim for Michael's widow, Lara. Michael died from pneumonia which was caused by chicken pox and was not diagnosed by his GP in time to treat the pneumonia successfully.
At the end of May 1996 Michael, then aged 30, contracted chicken pox from his two young daughters. In addition to spots appearing all over his body, he began to suffer very badly.
Michael experienced breathing difficulties, had a severe headache, high temperature and was vomiting mucus which contained thick sticky blood.
Michael's wife, Lara, contacted the on-call GP who attended and advised that Michael take paracetamol and use calamine lotion.
Lara was unhappy with this advice and attended the GP surgery with Michael the following day. At this stage Michael's arms were limp and his head was bowed, along with all the other symptoms. He was also too exhausted to talk for himself.
Lara repeated the symptoms to the GP and although the GP looked into Michael's mouth and throat, he did not check his temperature, hydration levels or examine his chest. The GP advised that Michael would feel unwell but he would recover without medication within a couple of weeks.
But Michael continued to be extremely unwell and his symptoms failed to improve. In early June he became delirious and his wife called the GP again.
The GP visited Michael at home later that morning and diagnosed chicken pox encephalitis (a swelling of the brain) and pneumonia. The GP arranged for Michael to be admitted to the local hospital.
Despite treatment Michael died 2 weeks later, leaving behind his partner and two young children.
Paul McNeil obtained expert evidence that Michael's GP was negligent for not examining Michael's chest on 3 June, which was when he first attended the surgery. If he had examined Michael's chest he would have found evidence of pneumonia.
This would have resulted in his admission to hospital and an X-Ray would have been performed that day. He would have been treated with intravenous acyclovir and our evidence suggested that he would have recovered fully from his illness.
The action was defended vigorously by the GP’s insurers and the action was tried before Deputy Judge Brennan QC.
After hearing evidence from the family, the GP and experts on both sides the judge found that the GP had been negligent. He found that if a timely referral been made, Michael would have fully recovered with no long term injuries or damage. He would have had a normal life expectancy.
Compensation was agreed (subject to liability) in the sum of £270,000, which Lara was happy to accept. This will provide for the loss of income that Michael's death has left and Lara is no longer worried about hers and her children's future.
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