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Case Study - Fatal delay in diagnosing pulmonary embolus

13 April 2015

Barlow Robbins represented Dorothy* in her claim on behalf of her daughter Danielle* and Danielle’s estate.

Danielle attended the Defendant hospital to have a ganglion cyst excised from her left wrist. Following the procedure she developed swelling in the right arm and was prescribed medication by her GP to reduce the swelling. She was advised by staff at the Defendant hospital that it was safe for her to travel by aeroplane to Turkey on holiday. She therefore proceeded to travel to Turkey the following month and during the four hour flight she developed swelling to other parts of her body including her hands, legs and face.

Upon her return to England Danielle began to suffer with chest pains and shortness of breath. She called an ambulance and was taken to the Defendant hospital. The blood test results showed that her D-dimer result was positive (which indicated there may have been a blood clot). However, she was diagnosed with anaemia and was discharged home the same day with iron supplements and for a review by her GP.

In the days after the discharge Danielle continued to suffer with a shortness of breath, fatigue and fainting spells and developed bruising. She had requested a GP appointment and was waiting for that appointment. However, a couple of weeks later, in light of her severe chest pains and shortness of breath Danielle was taken to the Defendant hospital by ambulance. She was admitted to a ward for a blood transfusion, but shortly after she arrived at the ward she had a cardiac arrest and died. The cardiac arrest was caused by a massive pulmonary embolism arising from a deep vein thrombosis in her right calf. She was just 50 years old.

A claim was brought by Danielle’s mother Dorothy in respect of Danielle’s death and the additional pain and suffering caused to Danielle in the weeks up to her death, which included shortness of breath, fainting and a feeling of exhaustion. A substantial claim for care was also made on behalf of Dorothy given that Danielle was living with Dorothy at the time and she relied on Danielle for transport, household chores including cooking, cleaning and DIY and gardening.

Barlow Robbins managed to secure admission of liability by the Defendant Hospital at an early stage. Danielle had obvious risk factors for venous thrombosis including a flight to and from Turkey, shortness of breath and a history of right-sided chest pain and the Defendant Hospital failed to prevent the development of the pulmonary embolus. Barlow Robbins were able to successfully argue that had Danielle received appropriate treatment, she would have made a full recovery and a five figure settlement was agreed.

* Names amended to maintain privacy