Inquest Finds Doctor’s “Basic Error” To Blame For Man’s Death

X-Ray Mistake Highlighted By Coroner


Leading law firm Irwin Mitchell is urging the NHS to learn from its mistakes after a coroner ruled that a Rotherham man died when a junior doctor tried to draw fluid from the wrong lung.

An inquest into the death of Eric Oliver, a widowed father who has 11 children and more than 90 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, also found the doctor failed to correct his error quickly enough once the mistake had been made. 

The inquest heard how Mr Oliver, 85, died at Rotherham District General Hospital, on 23 May 2009, after the doctor tried to drain fluid from Mr Oliver’s left lung – when the fluid was actually on his right lung. 

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented Mr Oliver’s family at the inquest, is now calling for the hospital to ensure that the recommendations made by its own investigation are followed up so that nothing like this can ever happen again.

Gary Walker, a medical law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said: “In this case Mr Oliver was the victim of a tragic human error which was then compounded by the doctor failing to take the steps which could still have saved Mr Oliver’s life.

“We are not talking about a complicated surgical procedure. This is a case of a basic human error which could and should not have happened and we hope that lessons have been learnt to prevent such a tragic error happening again.

“Patient safety should always be the priority of the NHS and we were pleased to see that the hospital has adopted changes as a result of its investigation.”

While giving evidence the doctor explained how he read Mr Oliver’s x-ray from the front but failed to view it from reverse before carrying out the procedure on his back.

The doctor then withdrew air, instead of fluid, from Mr Oliver’s lung causing it to collapse. Mr Oliver’s condition immediately deteriorated yet the doctor failed to carry out a simple procedure, or call for help, to reinflate the lung which would have almost certainly prevented his death.

A statement from Mr Oliver’s family said: “We are very upset by the way in which our father was treated whilst he was in hospital. 

“We find it difficult to understand how a doctor could make such a basic error and then fail to take simple steps which could have saved his life. 

“However, we are pleased that the hospital has accepted the seriousness of this tragic event and have reviewed their procedures to protect other patients from similar mistakes, and we hope that this will make him a better doctor.

“Nevertheless we remain disappointed that we will never have the opportunity to say goodbye to Eric.”

Coroner Nicola Mundy returned a narrative verdict at today’s inquest, stating that Mr Oliver developed serious complications following the error and concluded that this led to his heart attack and ultimately his death.
Mr Oliver had originally been admitted to the hospital with fluid on his lungs, after suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema, a lung disease which causes the airways to narrow.

If you or a loved one have received negligent medical care from your doctor you could be entitled to claim compensation. Visit our Doctor Negligence Claims page for more information.