Basic errors lead to post natal death

This article was published on: 11/4/16

Medical negligence cases can have some of the most serious consequences. That has unfortunately proven to be the case recently, as a basic safety errors left the mother of two recently born twins losing blood, eventually dying.

Receiving incorrect blood

The situation around the incident involved a 37 year old mother, Ms Estelle O Sullivan, in her second pregnancy experiencing some severe complications. She began to experience heavy blood loss and suffered a cardiac arrest.

During the cardiac arrest, the midwife was required to run to the labour unit for help due to the emergency buzzer (which was pressed) not working. She left the Consultant Anaesthetist who was attempting CPR to bring Ms O Sullivan’s condition under control. While performing CPR the consultant attempted to use a defibrillator but found it was very low on battery and struggled to make full use of it.

There were no platelets available within the hospital and when the Consultant Anaesthetist (Dr Suraj Jayasundera) asked the transfusions department and was informed some could be sent from Oxford by blue light. The platelets were delivered to the hospital, but for a reason the Anaesthetist could not explain, it was used on another patient despite being sent for Ms O Sullivan.

She was given blood eventually but the delays in help from the failed buzzer, a low powered defibrillator and delays in delivering the blood transfusion proved too much. There were also questions that the blood given to Ms O Sullivan was not what was ordered, but infact an incompatible blood type. With so many problems, it seemed inevitable that the worst would happen and Ms O Sullivan sadly succumbed to the blood loss.

Errors cost lives

Medical practioners know the risks associated with their job, in particular the theatre staff and surgeons that perform the operations like Ms O Sullivan’s C section. These risks will often mean extra care is required when planning surgery and having contingency plans for events like bleeding. What is unfortunate regarding this specific case is the sheer number of errors adding up including:

  • The emergency buzzer: This would require testing on at the very least a weekly basis by hospital maintenance personnel.
  • A low powered defibrillator: Defibrillator machines also require testing on a regular basis to ensure they are working properly. They should get new batteries long before the power runs down to ensure they operate at maximum capacity.
  • The blood delivery: The operation began a few hours before it was scheduled to but even with that being the case could it have been possible to have blood brought over before it started? Ms O Sullivan was classed as a very high risk patient and the likelihood of needing platelets would be far greater than normal.
  • Incorrect blood: It has been said by the Consultant in charge that they were unsure why the wrong blood was given to Ms O Sullivan and also unsure why the blood that did arrive was used on another patient. This type of error can easily cost a life as the blood she required would clot and stem the bleeding, possibly preventing her death.

It may be hard to determine one single defining factor or “person” responsible for Ms O Sullivan’s passing in this instance, but what is evidenced is the need for tighter safety regulations including testing and pre planning within at least that particular hospital. It is very easy for a trust to state they will “learn from” the incident and prevent others but the damage has now already been done, leaving a widower and 2 children who will never know their mother.

Legal stances

In a medical negligence case like this the family of the sufferer can request legal assistance to claim a measure of justice for the wrongdoing. It is never going to replace or make up for the person who has passed but it could be the best way to ensure those left behind have the best chance of moving on. In Ms O Sullivan’s case her two children would now be dependant on one parent and require help with care. To leave Ms O Sullivan’s partner to do this alone and suffer would be a huge injustice.

Even in cases that do not result in death, medical injuries often have long term, serious consequences such as requiring more surgeries, extended courses of physiotherapy and recovery treatments, possible retraining if the injury affects the ability to work as well as a host of other financial problems including care arrangements and future financial safety.

A legal firm such as ourselves would be required to assess the long term problems faced by everyone involved and look to contact as many specialists as needed to provide conscientious care and ensure everybody has an equal opportunity to continue life as close to normal as possible.

If you feel a situation like the above (or any other medical incident resulting in injury) has effected you or your family and would like some advice on how best to move forward, you can call on weekdays between 9am and 7pm on 01695 722 222. We offer free, impartial advice and ensure you know where you stand following an injury.

You can also get in touch using our contact form. We have a network of specialists with years of experience and will strive to do everything possible to resolve all legal issues for you, your family or friends.

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