Fatal failure to Manage Small Bowel Obstruction
Pearson Solicitors’ Clinical Negligence Team has recently secured a settlement of £7,500 in a case where the failure to adequately to manage an evolving small bowel obstruction led to a patient’s deterioration and eventual death.
Pearson Solicitors were instructed on behalf of Mrs T’s Estate. Prior to these events, was an independent and active lady.
She attended the A & E at Tameside Hospital complaining of severe upper stomach pain radiating to her back. Following medical review and an x-ray an aggravated ulcer was diagnosed and medication given to reduce acid and relieve pain.
However, Mrs T’s pain and nausea increased and she was referred to the Medical Assessment Unit for review. The doctors failed to take responsibility for the active management of her condition and she was left with increasingly significant pain and nausea for two days. Eventually, a small bowel obstruction was suspected and she was referred for surgical review. Before the review could take place, Mrs T began to vomit black liquid and a plan was formed to insert a Ryles tube to relieve pressure in her stomach. Unfortunately, Mrs T had by this point been left with the bowel obstruction for so long that she had begun to regurgitate gastric content and vomit.
Ultimately Mrs T was listed for surgery to relieve the bowel obstruction but, due to complications caused by her underlying chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, she did not tolerate the general anaesthetic and sadly died.
On conclusion of the investigation we secured admissions from the Trust that there had been missed opportunities to earlier diagnose the small bowel obstruction, that there was an unacceptable delay in identifying the cause of Mrs T’s worsening condition due to the unrelieved small bowel obstruction and its consequences, that surgery should have been performed earlier and that, if surgery had been performed earlier, Mrs T’s chances of survival would have been greater.
In addition to these breaches of duty of care we asserted that but, for the failures in her care, Mrs T would not have died when she did. Earlier diagnosis and intervention would have prevented her physiological deterioration. It was also established that Mrs T would have had a better chance of surviving the operation if she had not been allowed to deteriorate as significant as she did.
Commenting on the case Kenneth Lees, specialist clinical negligence solicitor, said “This is a very sad claim where a fully independent and self-caring lady died as a result of failures in her care.
Even though she had pre-existing COPD this would not have represented a significant risk to her but for the failures in the care that she received. Mrs T’s condition was stable and had been well managed by medication.
Whilst the period of time during which Mrs T suffered avoidably, the scale of damages recovered for her Estate demonstrated the horrific experience that she had as a result of the failures in the care that she received”.
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