Hospital Admits Mistakes As Anaesthetic Leaves Teenager Paralysed

Medical Law Expert Calls For Leading Children’s Hospital To Learn From Errors


A leading children’s hospital has admitted that a spinal anaesthetic which was mistakenly left in place for more than two days, has left a teenager permanently paralysed from the waist down.

Sophie Tyler, from Newport was only 14 when in May 2008 she was admitted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital to undergo surgery to remove gallstones but an epidural to control pain was left in place for too long which led to permanent damage of her spinal cord.

The hospital trust has now admitted liability for the mistake and a leading medical law expert is now calling for lessons to be learnt to safeguard future patient welfare.

Sophie, now aged 17, underwent gallstone surgery on 27th May 2008 and, following the operation, an epidural was inserted into her spine to control the pain. However, the following day Sophie complained of numbness in her right leg. As she could feel no pain, the epidural continued to be pumped into her spine.

After two days of receiving the anaesthetic, the numbness had spread to both legs and Sophie was barely able to move her feet. Despite these warning signs that something was seriously wrong, hospital staff did not stop the infusion of the pain killer until the night of the 29th May 2008.

The following day, Sophie underwent an MRI scan, which revealed that the anaesthetic had entered the spinal cord and damaged the membranes, which had paralysed her from the waist down.

Tim Deeming, a medical law expert with Irwin Mitchell solicitors, who is representing the Tyler family commented: “Sophie and her family have been devastated by what has happened. Other than suffering from gallstones, Sophie was a very healthy and active young girl. She and her family put their trust in the hospital and believed that within a few days she would be on the road to recovery. At the age of 14 to be told the news that you will never walk again is unimaginable and to discover that mistakes which were entirely avoidable, has been incredibly hard for them to cope with.

“Birmingham Children’s Hospital has a reputation, both nationally and internationally, for clinical excellence which is why it is extremely important both to protect future patient welfare and to provide public reassurance, that the hospital learns important lessons from what happened to Sophie. We very much hope that the staff responsible have already been retrained so that similar tragedies can be avoided and I am glad that they have now admitted responsibility.

“Although no amount of compensation will ever turn back the clock for Sophie, she will need specialist care and support for the rest of her life. The Trust’s full admission of liability now paves the way for a settlement which will provide Sophie with financial support to pay for the special equipment and care she now needs.”

He added: “This is an important case which has allowed our client to access justice and secure the lifetime of future care she needs but it would not have been possible without the support of Legal Aid.”

Sophie’s Mum, Sue Tyler, commented “My daughter’s life has completely changed as a result of what happened. From being an outgoing teenager her life has altered overnight and we have all had to come to terms with what has happened. Sophie is still taking her A levels and hopes to then go to university, but to do so, she has had to be very determined and needs a lot of support to enable her to achieve her goals.”