Victor Dewhirst died at the age of 66 following an operation to remove his right lung as a result of cancer.
This type of procedure normally involved the use of a staple gun to close veins and arteries. The surgeon’s choice of staple gun was not available due to a total lack of the relevant supplies. An alternative staple gun was used but during the course of the actual operation the surgeon was unable to continue to use it as that there were no suitable re-load cartridges available. As a result one of Mr Dewhirst’s major arteries had to be closed using stitches, a technique which had not been used regularly by this surgeon for approximately 20 years.
Mr Dewhirst seemed to do well initially but the morning after the operation Mr Dewhirst became unresponsive and medical teams were unable to revive him. A post mortem revealed that death had been caused by the loosening of one of the stitches securing an artery which caused Mr Dewhirst to bleed to death.
Evidence provided to the coroner stated that had the correct medical equipment been available then it was highly likely that Mr Dewhirst’s death would have been avoided. When giving evidence the surgeon admitted that the hospital had implemented a policy of running down stocks of supplies prior to the department moving to a new location and further evidence exposed that the spare cartridges used by the equipment in question had not been ordered for over 6 weeks. The inability of the hospital to ensure that adequate equipment was available to the surgeon directly caused the death of Mr Dewhirst.
Mr Dewhirst’s widow has pursued a claim against the hospital trust in the hope of gaining an admission that mistakes were made in the care provided to her husband. She said, ‘Both my daughter and I are distraught that this happened and that the hospital is willing to adopt a policy which places the lives of its patients in danger. Despite the outcome of the inquest and the settlement of the legal claim we are still yet to receive an apology from the trust for their part in my husband’s death.’
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