Medical Law Experts Say Trust Must Now Prove Lessons Have Been Learnt From Mistakes Made
A heartbroken grandmother-of-three whose daughter died after a weight loss operation has spoken of her relief after the hospital trust admitted full responsibility for her death and agreed to pay a substantial undisclosed settlement to the children to whom she has now devoted her life.
Tracey Korkmaz died in February 2008, aged 41, after a surgeon at a leading London teaching hospital punctured her stomach lining during a keyhole sleeve gastrectomy operation to make it smaller, as she hoped to drop from 23 stone to 18 stone.
After she deteriorated following the surgery, doctors operated on her again to try and discover the cause of her feverish symptoms but could not find the leak, allowing poisonous fluids to continue to seep into her body and cause irreparable damage. Even after a third operation and repair of the leak she continued to deteriorate and died 10 days after the original surgery.
The NHS reception worker left behind three children, the youngest of which was just two when she died, her husband Yusuf, and a large family in Turkey.
Her mum June Sillitoe, from Fulham, who a High Court judge praised for her devotion to caring for her grandchildren at the settlement approval hearing in London earlier this month, instructed medical negligence experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate what went wrong.
Now, after winning her battle for justice, she is echoing calls from Irwin Mitchell for University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to prove lessons have been learnt to prevent anymore ‘needless’ deaths.
This follows a coroner’s request that the National Patient Safety Register investigate the trust after three deaths at University College Hospital between January and June 2008 following different routine operations. A verdict of death by accidental adverse healthcare event was given at the inquest into Tracey’s death in September 2008 at St Pancras Coroners Court
Holly Young, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, representing the family said: “This is a tragic case that has seen three children lose their mum at an age when they were still very reliant on her.
“The inquests into Tracey’s and two other needless deaths after operations at the University College Hospital were held on the same day and the coroner urged the National Patient Safety Register and other health authorities to investigate how mistakes were allowed to happen. June, Tracey’s children and other patients now need proof that these mistakes have been identified and learnt from to prevent any further tragedies.
“It’s bad enough that Tracey’s stomach was punctured but for it then to not be properly identified and repaired causing irreparable damage is simply not acceptable. We have repeatedly called for patient safety to be the top priority across the NHS and mistakes like these should not be happening.”
During the original keyhole procedure the surgeon discovered that Tracey’s liver was enlarged and experts at Irwin Mitchell found that the surgery should have been abandoned or switched to a different type of operation, but instead they carried on. Tracey suffered internal bleeding and the operation had to be converted to open surgery.
June, 69, who now cares for the children Riah Sillitoe, 16, Enes Korkmaz-Sillitoe, 13, and Zeren Korkmaz Sillitoe, seven, said: “Tracey’s death has left a huge gap in all of our lives and we’ve struggled to come to terms with the fact she has gone.
“We had so many questions about why Tracey died and while the inquest and admission of liability answered some of these, I want proof that the hospital trust has done something to make sure the mistakes made can never happen again.
“Tracey thought long and hard about whether to go ahead with the surgery but she wanted to be healthier for the kids and wanted to know that she would be around to see them reach adulthood and one day become a grandmother herself. The gastric bypass was a last resort but sadly, because of the mistakes made, she was robbed of this.
“Tracey and the children lived with me before her death and we were a great team, with the children being our focus and priority. I have tried to keep that going now she has gone. Things will never be the same again and nothing will turn back the clock but Tracey’s death cannot be in vain.
“The settlement for the children means they can now pursue their dreams, such as going to university and enjoying the hobbies they love. These are things that Tracey worked so hard to try and provide for them. It won’t bring her back, but knowing they have financial security to begin to move on with their lives provides some comfort.”