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Tragic Death Of 66 Year Old Man After Misdiagnosis

On 6 January 2012, 66 year old J collapsed at work with lower back pain. He was pale and sweaty and generally unwell. Because J had a history of hypertension and was taking medication for this, he went to his GP who performed an ECG and abdominal examination. She confirmed that J had an unusually fast heart rate and a mass in his upper abdomen which maybe symptomatic of an aortic aneurysm; a swelling which, if left untreated, could be life-threatening.

The GP spoke with the Clinical Assessment Team (CAT Team) at Harrogate Hospital and arranged for J to be urgently admitted. She sent an accompanying referral letter to the Hospital detailing her findings, which J took with him.
J arrived at Harrogate Hospital on 6 January 2012 at 7.00pm. He was admitted to the ward and was seen by an on call Registrar at 7.30pm. Unfortunately, the GP’s referral letter was seemingly disregarded and/or ignored. The Registrar stated that the collapse was probably due to lack of sleep and possible hypoglycaemia and that J should rest at home.

J was seen by another Registrar at 9.35pm who suggested that he stay in overnight. He thought that he may have a urinary tract infection.

The next day, at 11.30am on 7 January 2010, J was reviewed by a Consultant and it was planned that repeat bloods would be taken and a renal ultrasound performed in order to rule out stones. J would then be able to go home later. The Consultant reviewed J again at 4.45pm and noted worsening renal function. He planned to catheterise J and continue antibiotics and fluids.

Tragically, on the morning of 8 January 2012 at 8.20am, J collapsed. Resuscitation was unsuccessful and J sadly died at 9.05am.

The post mortem indicated that his death was caused by a massive intra abdominal haemorrhage secondary to a rupture of the abdominal aortic aneurysm. The rupture had been leaking fairly slowly during J’s presentation but the final event was the massive haemorrhage.

Following a complaint to the Hospital by the family, the Hospital admitted that they had breached their duty of care to J. Their own investigation confirmed that their doctors had failed to appreciate the GP’s diagnosis and failed to consider the aortic aneurysm. They admitted that had they taken notice of this, J would have been referred to a specialist surgeon for treatment. The Hospital admitted in July 2011, that had J been referred he probably would have lived.

The claim was brought by J’s widow on behalf of his Estate and, in May 2012 a settlement was reached in the sum of £110,000. This figure included a claim under the Fatal Accidents Act for the statutory bereavement award and the widow’s loss of dependency, together with an amount for J’s pain and suffering before he died under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.
Sarah Coles, Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, Leeds, represented the Claimant

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