Families From Ipswich And Borehamwood Instruct Lawyers To Help Establish Answers
The families of two women, who died after being diagnosed with a bacterial infection linked to a hospital outbreak, have revealed how they hope an upcoming inquest will provide them with answers.
Karen Starling and Anne Martinez both tested positive for Mycobacterium Abscessus (M.abscessus) after successfully undergoing double lung transplants at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. They were from Ipswich and Borehamwood respectively.
21 Royal Papworth Hospital transplant patients contract bacterial infection
It later emerged that 21 patients with lung conditions were infected with M.abscessus in the months after the specialist heart and lung hospital opened in May 2019, a serious incident report found.
The “most credible source” of the outbreak was the hospital’s water supply becoming contaminated, the report by Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the site, found.
The Trust said there was no evidence patients became infected because of any problems with the clinical care provided to patients or the way facilities were managed at the hospital.
Families ask lawyers to help obtain answers
Following the deaths of Karen and Anne, their families instructed expert public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help investigate and support them through an inquest. The law firm also represents a number of surviving patients who were diagnosed with M.abscessus following surgery at the Royal Papworth.
Karen’s and Anne’s families have now spoken of how they hope an inquest, due to start tomorrow, will help provide them with answers regarding their deaths.
Expert Opinion“Karen’s and Anne’s deaths have had a profound impact on their loved ones. Understandably, the families are still struggling to come to terms with what happened and the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
“While the inquest, and reliving those events, is going to be extremely difficult for them, it’s also a major milestone in being able to help provide them with the answers they deserve.
“M.abscessus is an incredibly dangerous bacterial infection for lung transplant patients, who are particularly vulnerable, the consequences of which should never be downplayed. It can lead to long-term health problems, and in the worst cases can be fatal.
“If, during the course of the inquest, any issues are identified in how Karen and Anne contracted M.abscessus, it’s vital that lessons are learned to prevent other people contracting such infections in the future.” Jatinder Paul
An inquest is due to start on Thursday, 3 November, at Peterborough Town Hall in Cambridgeshire and is expected to last seven days.
Karen Starling's story
Karen Starling was diagnosed with M.abscessus shortly after undergoing a double lung transplant at the Royal Papworth Hospital in May 2019. She had the lung condition COPD.
Following the infection, Karen developed pancreatitis. She died in February 2020.
Karen was a mum-of-six - which includes two stepchildren - and a grandmother-of-14.
In a statement her husband, Derek Starling, said: “Karen was all about family. It was her main focus and what she lived for. When we were told that she would be able to undergo a transplant, we were overjoyed and hoped it would give her many years with us to create many more precious memories.
“We’ll always be thankful for the skill and expertise the transplant surgeons and their team showed, and the care and compassion other medical staff showed Karen as she fought for her life. However, we still have so many concerns about how Karen contracted her infection and if more could have been done to prevent her illness.
“We know the inquest and listening to the evidence is going to be difficult, but it’s something we have to do, to at least have the answers we feel we deserve.”
Anne Martinez's story
Primary school teacher, Anne, had lung disease and underwent a double transplant at the Royal Papworth in July 2019. Shortly afterwards she contracted M.abscessus.
Initially her condition was monitored; however, she then started a period of being prescribed antibiotics.
Anne’s condition deteriorated and she died aged 65 in December 2020.
In a joint statement her sons Anthony, 40, and Andrew 35, said: “Never did we think that when Mum had her operation things would turn out the way they did. We thought it would be a new chapter in her life.
However, during her recovery from surgery she was told about her infection and in the latter parts of 2019 and 2020 her health deteriorated.
“Seeing her in those final months as her condition continued to get worse was terrible. It’s something that will always stay with us. While it’s approaching two years since her death it’s still difficult to accept she is no longer here. Having so many questions still has made trying to grieve for Mum all the harder. While time has moved on, it feels like it’s stood still for our family.
“We know nothing can turn the clock back, but we hope that the hearing will help our family get the answers we need and a form of closure.”
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting families affected by illness and infection outbreaks at our dedicated public health section.