Elderly Woman Dies After Lung Punctured During Procedure

Medical Law Experts Say Specialist Equipment Should Have Been Used

03.05.2012

The son of a woman who died when doctors chose not to use specialist equipment during a procedure on her lung has spoken of his anger that his mother’s death could have been avoided.

Grandmother of four, Elsie Shimeld, 91, from Wadsley, Sheffield, was admitted to the city’s Hallamshire Hospital on 22 August 2007 after becoming unwell.

She was diagnosed with fluid on the lung and required a procedure to remove the fluid, which involves inserting a needle into the back. Despite the potential dangers identified after an x-ray coupled with Elsie’s frailty and old age, medical staff performed the procedure without using ultrasound guidance that would have greatly reduced the risk of complications arising.

The needle punctured Elsie’s lung, and she died in great discomfort as a result of her injury on 9 September 2007, nine days after the procedure.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust initially denied the allegations made in the claim brought about by Elsie’s son John, 56, supported by Irwin Mitchell that if the procedure had been carried out under ultrasound guidance then his mother’s lung would not have been punctured.

Liability for Elsie’s death remained in dispute throughout the legal proceedings, but the Trust finally settled the case just four weeks before a trial was due to take place at Sheffield County Court.

Anna Stacey, an expert medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Elsie’s family are devastated at the death of their mother and grandmother, and hope that the safety of the individual patient is always put first. They do not wish any others families to go through a similar experience.

“Even in routine procedures, patients need care tailored to their needs and because of Elsie’s age, the clinical decision made to perform the procedure without thoroughly assessing the risks was unacceptable. The outcome was avoidable, as use of an ultrasound would have greatly reduced the risk of a punctured lung.

John Shimeld, also from Wadsley, Sheffield, said: “I’m happy that my mother was able to live a long and full life, but to think that she was taken from us entirely unnecessarily is tragic.

“I’m so angry and frustrated that the staff we trusted to look after my mother didn’t seem to have done everything they could to keep her safe and well and failed in their 'duty of care'. My mother may have been elderly, but if these steps had been taken she would still be with us.

“It is devastating to hear that they did not use the ultrasound equipment which would have reduced the risk of complications arising, but now we just want assurance from the hospital that elderly patients are getting the care they need and that procedures have improved since my mother’s death.”