Medical Negligence Experts At Irwin Mitchell Instructed To Investigate Failings
The devastated families of two men who died after being given kidneys infected with parasitic worms while undergoing transplants have called for urgent lessons to be learned after an inquest.
Jim Stuart aged 67 and Darren Hughes aged 42 had kidney transplants in November 2013 at University Hospital Of Wales, but after surgery their conditions began to deteriorate rapidly; they lost consciousness and died just over two weeks later.
They both died of infection of the brain called meningo-encephalitis which was caused by parasites known as Halicephalobus which lives in soil and commonly found in horses. There have only been five reported cases in the world of people diagnosed with the infection, all have been fatal. The donor of the kidneys also died from the same infection.
A two-day inquest was held at Cardiff Coroner’s Court and Acting Coroner Christopher Woolley today recorded a narrative conclusion and mentioned he would be making recommendations to prevent future deaths (Regulation 28).
Both families have instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate how this could have happened and whether more could have been done to prevent their loved ones’ tragic deaths.
The inquest heard how the organs had previously been rejected by several other hospitals due to the infection, but were then put on the fast track list stating ‘poor function’ as to the reason they were rejected rather than “cause of death” which was the reason the majority of other units had rejected the organs
Evidence was also presented from a number of different organisations including investigations by University Hospital of Wales, NHS Blood and Transplant, Public Health England and Public Health Wales. They raised issues including:
• At the time of accepting the kidney for donation no organism responsible for the meningo-encephalitis had been identified;
• The surgeon did not consult a microbiologist or any other members of the team before deciding whether to accept the kidneys for transplantation;
• Both families gave evidence that they were not told about the specific risks involved in accepting these particular kidneys for transplantation; if they had been told the kidneys would have been refused;
• Several instances where National guidelines were not followed
Julie Lewis, a Partner and specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office representing the two families, said:
Expert OpinionThis is a horrifying case where two people were hoping for a new lease of life by being given a kidney transplant but both of their lives were tragically cut short due to being given infected organs.
“There may be a place for the use of higher risk organs where a potential recipient is facing immediate death but dialysis is an alternative to transplantation and some individuals may be able to enjoy a good quality of life without surgery. The really important message is that patients must be given all of the relevant information so that they can make a decision as to whether they want to proceed with transplantation of a higher risk organ or except the risk of remaining on dialysis.
“The family are seeking assurances from the NHS that lessons have or will be learnt so that a similar incident cannot happen again to others.” Julie Lewis - Partner
Judith Stuart, Jim’s widow said: “Our family has been left completely devastated by Jim’s death and we are still struggling to come to terms with what has happened especially as we were hoping that the kidney transplant was going to give him a new lease of life.
“We want to highlight that every patient who is waiting for organs on the transplant list that they have the right to turn down an organ if they are concerned about the risks. We also feel it is important to say that every patient and family have the right to question the surgeon’s opinion and ask for more information – we feel that we weren’t given the opportunity to make an informed decision as we were not given any information. If we had been given a chance to consider the options about the surgery the outcome would have been entirely different.
“We would like to thank the Coroner for taking the time to ensure that a thorough investigation was carried out to help us find the answers we are looking for as to how this could have happened to him and hope that this can never happen to any other person who is due to have an organ transplant.”
Ian Hughes, Darren’s father, said: “No words can describe how we feel after losing Darren. It was a complete shock how quickly his condition deteriorated in hospital and we were completely stunned to find out what caused the infection.
“The purpose of an organ transplant is to save or prolong someone’s life and Darren’s life was tragically cut short and we are determined to find out how this could have happened. It was difficult enough for us to come to terms with what happened to him but to also hear that another family had also been affected was heart-breaking.
“We hope that people who are currently on the transplant list are not put off by what has happened to Darren and Jim as it is a lifesaving service which helps thousands of people up and down the country. It is important that all patients and their families are presented with all the relevant information and potential risks for all medical procedures especially with organ transplants so they can make an informed decision.
“We just hope that things are improved further after this inquest as its been incredibly difficult listening to all the evidence. I would hate for anyone else to have to go through this experience.”