Hospital Errors Lead To Dad Suffocating On Food

Hospital Errors Lead To Dad Suffocating On Food

Medical negligence solicitors at Irwin Mitchell secured a vital care and rehabilitation package for a man who suffered permanent brain damage after suffocating on food in hospital.

Toby, a self-employed heating engineer, was being treated at hospital after a fall at work when he inhaled the contents of his stomach – porridge he had eaten for breakfast that morning – into his lungs while being put under anaesthetic.

The 50-year-old was left struggling with mobility and severely brain damaged, so his wife contacted medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to help her husband gain access to the specialist care and support he needs.

Breach of duty

The responsible NHS Trust admitted breach of duty in 2011 after expert evidence commissioned by Irwin Mitchell found that the consultant anaesthetist failed to give Toby a pre-operative assessment which would have highlighted that he had been nauseous all morning. This evidence also found that a Rapid Sequence Induction anaesthetic technique was needed as it would have prevented him from gagging.

Instead, he suffocated on the porridge, causing Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and a stroke which led to permanent brain damage, leaving him fighting for his life in intensive care and remaining completely dependent on others for all of his care needs.

Months of rehabilitation

After regaining consciousness, Toby was transferred to a specialist stroke unit where he started rehabilitation. Unable to swallow or speak normally he underwent months of painful rehabilitation and regained some movement in the left side of his body. 

To make matters worse, Toby also suffered a pressure sore during his prolonged stay in the intensive care unit which the Trust admitted was also caused by negligence.

The Trust has now agreed to pay a significant undisclosed sum to Toby which will be managed by Irwin Mitchell’s in-house Court of Protection team to ensure the funds provide his lifelong care, rehabilitation, equipment and specialist accommodation needs.

Complex care needs

Medical negligence experts Julie Lewis and Kate Easy represented Toby. Commenting on the case, Julie said: “Although Toby suffered serious leg and back injuries, doctors were confident that he would have made a very good recovery following the initial surgery, even positive that he would be able to return to the job he loved.

“Instead he has been left heavily dependent on his family for care support and will never be able to live independently again. 

“The settlement that has now been agreed reflects the complex care needs Toby has as a result of the Trust’s negligence. Nothing can turn back the clock but it will allow the family to support Toby as well as give him access to a lifetime of rehabilitation such as physiotherapies and cognitive therapy to give him the best quality of life possible.

“We would like to see confirmation from the Trust that steps have been taken, such as increased training in recognising the appropriate anaesthetics for patients who display signs of nausea, to ensure no one else can suffer a similar ordeal in future.”

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