On 27 March 2013, Paul McNeil issued proceedings on behalf of Irene who, at that time, was aged 82 years.
Sadly, Irene suffered an above knee amputation to her right leg, in January 2013, which we alleged was due to the negligence on the part of both hospitals. At the time proceedings were issued, the defendants had offered to settle the claim in the sum of £3500. In November 2014, the case settled for almost £1m 3 days before trial.
Irene was admitted to the Basildon Hospital on 26 October 2011. She had been complaining of pain in her right knee. In September 1996 she had undergone a right knee replacement. On admission, she was noted to have a high temperature, be clammy and have elevated markers for infection. She was given intravenous antibiotics to fight the infection.
From 31 October things began to go badly wrong. A mistaken entry in her notes suggested that she had "lung cancer" (in fact, she had suffered from a dermoid tumour many years previously). The error was corrected by Irene's son (a GP). Nevertheless, a CT scan of the chest was performed on 2 November but the Request Form incorrectly stated that she had lung cancer. The radiologist reported the CT scan as revealing metastatic lesions not withstanding that there was a clear differential of bacterial pulmonary emboli - consistent with sepsis caused by the knee infection.
A consultant microbiologist was asked to consider the history and he concluded that, given the evidence of bacterial infection in the blood culture, the lung lesions were likely to be "septic emboli". Incredibly and very sadly, this advice was ignored and later, overruled in a review of the CT scan by 2 consultant radiologists.
Irene was then referred to the palliative team and she was discharged home to die on 8 November. She was expected to succumb before Christmas 2011. She and her family were obviously distraught, but had trusted the advice of the treating doctors at Basildon hospital.
Between November and March 2012, Irene was treated as if she had terminal lung cancer. The underlying septic condition remained largely untreated.
The family were surprised that Irene's condition did not deteriorate as they had been told to expect. She was confined to bed, but there was little evidence of the "cancer" progressing. Eventually, they sought a second opinion from a private consultant physician. The lung CT scan was repeated and this excluded the diagnosis of lung cancer because her lungs were completely normal.
She was then referred to the Queens Hospital in Romford (the second defendants) for treatment of her infected knee prosthesis on the right side. Even then, the investigations and treatment were very slow. Irene required the infected prosthesis removed quickly so as to avoid significant flare up of the infection. The revision surgery was not listed until 11 January 2013 (by which time, the knee had become badly infected and very painful). Removal of the prosthesis did not improve the, by now rampant, infection and on 2 February 2013, a trans femoral amputation of the right leg took place.
The evidence of medical negligence was strong but the defendants' legal team took every point possible and failed to recognise just how significantly the injuries caused by the negligence had affected Irene and her family. Three days before the trial, the defendants finally made a realistic offer to settle the claim. The compensation (some of it paid by way of an earlier interim payment) allowed Irene to extend the ground floor accommodation at home and to pay for professional care and therapies.
After the case her GP son said:
"Paul performed brilliantly on behalf of our family, always listening and keeping us up to date with the case and making a sensible case for damages. It does not give Mum back her life, but the settlement means we as a family know that her future care is guaranteed financially."
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