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Ground-breaking Gentamicin Case Questions Consent

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Asking a patient for consent when treating them was at the heart of a case for medical negligence solicitors - a client who reacted badly to his antibiotics and was left with life changing disabilities has received a settlement when Pearson Solicitors acted on his case.

Solicitor Matthew Cox said life for his client had changed forever following the hospital error and the side effects he now suffered.

It was claimed that the hospital had failed to make the patient aware of the risks associated with his treatment and that given his medical history and awareness of his own condition he would have opted for a safer alternative and not consented to the proposed treatment when alternatives were available.

Mr Cox added that at no time was the patient’s medical history checked to see that he had been given the powerful antibiotic in the past and had a previous bad reaction to it.

This case is different from so many others in that the claim was made not on mistakes in the administration of the antibiotic, it was the right choice for his condition, but it was given without his knowledge,” said Mr Cox.

“What we have here is a client who knows that previous treatments have left him with a history of balance issues, he does not like being dizzy and would never have consented to the same course of treatment.

“When used correctly antibiotics are perfectly safe, however in this case toxicity has culminated in life changing circumstances for my client and this award reflects the lifetime of care and assistance he will need,” said Mr Cox.

The East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust made the settlement of £100,000 admitting negligence.

80-year-old Mr R had a history of dizziness and imbalance and it was alleged that the treating hospital failed to take his medical history into account. He was not given an alternative treatment option and the administered antibiotic Gentamicin caused ototoxicity (toxic to the ear and vestibular system), and this drug in conjunction with the antibiotic Vancomycin exacerbated his problems.

His mobility is now limited, he is unable to drive, cannot tend his garden, undertake domestic or recreational activities – these are symptoms likely to deteriorate as he ages.

Previously Mr R had been treated for gallbladder, pancreatitis and bile duct issues, he had suspected biliary sepsis and was treated with Gentamicin.  He then had ongoing vertigo, balance and dizziness problems but was treated with an exercise programme and this relatively mild impairment did not affect his daily life.

It was only when his bile problems returned and he went to A&E and was administered oral and intravenous dual antibiotics Gentamicin and Vancomycin that he was further affected.  When Mr R was discharged he had severe disabling balance impairment, oscillopsia and tinnitus which has gone on to severely affect his day to day life.

“My client had an awareness of the effects of his previous treatment and did not like the dizzy feeling he was left with but had managed to live with it.  Doctors routinely ask if we have allergies, or gain patient consent for surgery or chemotherapy drugs, however here Gentamicin was given and he was not consulted, had he been presented with an option he would not have taken this medication.

“We place our health in the hands of professionals and sometimes when it goes wrong people need answers and in cases such as this a financial settlement to help get on with their lives,” said Mr Cox.

Commenting on the case, Mr R added:  “I am so grateful to Pearson Solicitors for taking this case which proved to be long and complicated.  It was a pleasure to deal with Pearson Solicitor who was highly professional and very thorough but maintained a very personal and informative relationship with me. 

“Clearly the firm is highly experienced in this type of case,” he added.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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