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Daughter To Launch Legal Action Following Leeds Surgery Death

Leeds General Infirmary



The daughter of a 63-year-old Pudsey woman who died following botched emergency surgery at Leeds General Infirmary is to launch legal action.

Wakefield Coroner David Hinchliff passed a narrative verdict today after the two day inquest into the death of Christine Tunnicliffe drew to a close.

Coroner Hincliff found that Mrs Tunnicliffe died as result of a pericolic abscess (an abscess just outside the colon). He also concluded that a number of other factors including the tracheal tear which had occurred during her anaesthesia for surgery contributed to her death.

Mrs Tunnicliffe's family have now instructed clinical negligence experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to pursue legal action against Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Linda Smith, an associate solicitor in the Medical Law and Patients' Rights team at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "Christine's family have serious concerns about the amount of time that elapsed before the six centimetre tear to her trachea was diagnosed and also exactly how it occurred.

"Christine had over come her previous health problems to lead a very full and active life – regularly visiting friends and family and always getting on with her household chores. She remained positive and was extremely cheerful despite the discomfort she experienced for many years."

Mrs Tunnicliffe's daughter Lynne Bradshaw said: "We are astounded that it took over 12 hours to diagnose the tear to our Mother's trachea. In our eyes the anaesthetist should have realised sooner. He had to make three attempts at intubating her and knew her tissue was weak because of the long-term steroid medication she was on following her kidney transplant in 1995.

"As a family we truly believe this contributed to her sudden death.

"She had many many years left to enjoy, her life was cut short. It's heartbreaking to think she'll never again look after her grandchildren, who she so completely adored."

Christine Tunnicliffe was admitted to the Accident and Emergency Department at LGI, on 20th May 2007, after her family became worried about the pains she was experiencing in her stomach.

On arrival she was reviewed by the surgical registrar and told she would need emergency surgery to determine exactly what was wrong.

Over a two day hearing the inquest heard how at 3.30pm the next day under the care of surgeons Mr Chapple and Mr Jose she underwent an exploratory laparotomy - a surgical procedure involving an incision into the abdomen to examine the abdominal organs.

During the operation anaesthetist Dr Atkinson encountered difficulties intubating Christine and as a result the tube had to be inserted three times.

Immediately after the procedure Christine was transferred to intensive care and placed on a ventilator.

The following morning Dr Atkinson reviewed her condition as he was so concerned about the difficulties he had administering her anaesthetic. Over 12 hours after the operation it was discovered she had a large tear to her trachea.

Although over the course of the next 10 days Christine Tunnicliffe's operation wounds began to heal well her condition deteriorated and she died at 11.45am on 1st June 2007. She leaves behind four children, Lynne, Graham, Andrew and Kathryn.

The inquest had started in June 2008 but was postponed until this week to allow further expert investigations to take place.