Family Receive Compensation for Death Caused by Misdiagnosis

Family Receive Compensation for Death Caused by Misdiagnosis

The family of a woman who died after her condition was misdiagnosed have received compensation.

Mrs X had a past medical history of depression, cervical spondylosis and hypertension (high blood pressure).  In March 2009 she developed a chest infection and in April she attended her GP for a follow-up appointment.  Her blood pressure was noted to be low and she had an irregular heart beat, so was referred by the GP to the Medical Assessment Unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield. She was given a referral letter, along with details of her current medications to take to hospital. 

Mrs X attended the Royal Hallamshire Hospital at 1pm that day and initial observations by a nurse showed her heart rate had increased and so had her blood pressure. 

Mrs X was seen by a junior doctor who concluded Mrs X’s racing heart was probably a result of a chest infection and prescribed her 100mg of Atenolol, along with other tests. 

The Atenolol was given shortly after 3pm that day.  At 4pm Mrs X was noted to be clammy and sweaty and that her blood pressure had dropped.  Steps were taken to give Mrs X fluids to help increase her blood pressure, along with other drugs. 

Unfortunately Mrs X suffered two cardiac arrests and was transferred to Intensive Care.  Her blood pressure continued to deteriorate despite medical intervention and Mrs X died later that evening.

The Inquest into Mrs X’s death took place in March 2010. A Narrative Verdict was returned in which the Coroner noted that Mrs X’s death was contributed to by serious failures in the diagnosis and management of her heart disease. The Coroner concluded that there was a failure to diagnose that Mrs X was actually suffering acute congestive heart failure, that the interaction between drugs Mrs X was already on and ones given at hospital were not considered and that there was inappropriate use of a high dose of Atenolol in the presence of heart failure and low blood pressure.

A claim for clinical negligence was brought by Mrs X’s widower. Liability for the death was admitted and settlement agreed.

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