Higgs secures £30k for family after medication error

31 October 2022

Jenny Tetlow, Senior Associate in Higgs LLP’s highly regarded medical negligence team, has secured £30,000 for a family after a woman was administered an incorrect combination of drugs during a hospital stay.

The woman concerned was admitted to the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in September 2017 after suffering a fall at home.

She was admitted with atrial fibrillation and, after a discussion between the doctor and her daughter, it was agreed a specific type of anti-coagulant, Apixaban, was to be administered instead of Warfarin.

Following this discussion Warfarin was removed from the woman’s drug chart. Despite this, the Defendant proceeded to negligently administer Warfarin alongside the Apixaban with a further dose of Apixaban being given a day later. As a result of the Defendant’s error the woman developed swelling to her lower leg which resulted in a large pretibial haematoma.

The woman was required to undergo an unpleasant debridement procedure during which between 300-400 mls of congealed blood was removed. It was further recognised that the drug error had exposed the woman to an unnecessary risk of bleeding. The debridement procedure resulted in the woman needing to undergo a significant period of bed rest, severely reducing her functional ability and mobility.

Jenny said: “Prior to the negligence the woman had lived independently at home. Despite undergoing rehabilitation, her mobility remained poor following the avoidable period of bed rest and, after suffering several further falls, it became necessary to admit her to a care home.

“Following this admission, the woman’s quality of life sadly deteriorated with the haematoma never fully healing prior to her passing in 2019.”

The woman’s daughters engaged in the Duty of Candour process initially which led to the Defendant admitting it was an error to prescribe both anti-coagulants to their mother. However, after formal litigation was started, the Defendant then attempted to argue that the haematoma would have developed in any event but that the severity had increased due to their negligence.

The Defendant further denied that the woman was admitted to a care home earlier than she would have been had the negligence not occurred. The Defendant made an offer to settle the claim for £15,000 which Higgs advised the family to reject.

Jenny added: “Whilst the deceased would likely have required admission to a care home eventually due to her existing medical conditions, we were of the view that this had been accelerated due to the woman being subject to avoidable and prolonged bed rest as a result of the avoidable debridement procedure.

“Furthermore, we argued the woman’s life expectancy had been compromised as a result of the Defendant’s negligence.”

Higgs obtained expert evidence from a Consultant Physician and Geriatrician who opined that as a result of the Defendant’s negligence, the woman’s admission to a care home and subsequent death had been accelerated by six to nine months due to the avoidable period of prolonged bed rest.

This expert’s evidence underwent vigorous testing to prove these consequences had occurred as a result of the negligent treatment on the balance of probabilities. Following negotiations, Higgs were able to secure a settlement of £30,000 for the woman’s estate.

“We were pleased with the outcome, which represented a significant increase on the Defendant’s original offer of £15,000,” said Jenny.

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