£175K settlement for woman who suffered a brain injury and died after GP visit for asthma

10 May 2024

Jane* suffered from shortness of breath and had a history of asthma. The severity of Jane’s symptoms and her decline were not recognised by her GP, causing a delay in her treatment that led to a hypoxic brain injury and, tragically, her death. 

Jane’s family were supported and guided by Charlotte Measures, a Legal Director in our NHS negligence team, to make a claim on behalf of Jane’s Estate and her Dependents, and together, their drive and motivation resulted in a £175,000 settlement. 

Asthma is a chronic condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs. The main symptoms of asthma include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest, and coughing. When symptoms get temporarily worse, this is known as an asthma attack. 

Fatal asthma is a type of severe asthma characterised by cardiac arrest and silent chest combined. Silent chest occurs after a prolonged asthma attack and shows with symptoms such as wheezing and inaudible breathing sounds due to severe bronchial spasms or extensive mucus blockage.  

Emergency admission should be arranged for a person with breathlessness if silent chest is suspected.

The challenges the family faced

Jane had an asthma attack and called the paramedics. She was advised to see her GP. Jane spoke with a GP the same day and her asthma medication was amended. Jane discussed her ongoing symptoms with GPs on two further occasions and visited the surgery in person 22 days later when her symptoms had worsened.

Jane was given a nebuliser, and an ambulance was called, but not on an urgent basis. By the time the ambulance arrived, Jane had deteriorated further. She then suffered a respiratory arrest and a cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. She was resuscitated but had suffered a hypoxic brain injury and died later in intensive care. 

Following Jane’s passing, the family suffered confusion over the treatment and immense grief. Jane was central to the family and loved by her partner, her four children, and her grandchildren. Jane enjoyed caring for her grandchildren, and her passing meant her eldest daughter could not attend university, as Jane would have provided childcare while her daughter studied. 

Jane’s partner, *John, lost his companion and long-term partner, whom he was reliant on as the team worked as a pair throughout their long-term relationship. 

How we helped settle the claim

With Charlotte's support and guidance, Jane’s family made a claim against the GP. Together, they argued that there was a breach of duty, and the GP failed to recognise Jane’s silent chest and the severity of her symptoms and make emergency arrangements for admission to hospital. 

The GP refused to accept that the treatment given was below a reasonable standard and that urgent steps to treat Jane should have been taken. However, despite the GP denying liability throughout the case, Charlotte ensured the relevant evidence was presented to support the claim.

Charlotte secured expert evidence from independent experts in the field of General Practice and Respiratory Medicine. Assisted by barrister, Nicholas Truelove of Kings Chambers, a settlement of £175,000 was agreed following exchange of evidence and negotiation.


*real name not used

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