A woman has been awarded £11 million in compensation after an anaesthetic error during a routine Achilles tendon operation left her severely brain-damaged.
The incident took place at North Middlesex Hospital, in London.
Following an operation on the woman’s Achilles tendon, the anaesthetist found that the lady was slow to wake up so administered the respiratory stimulant Doxapram.
However, Doxapram is only effective for a short amount of time, and one of the risks of its use is that it can wear off before the effects of the drug it is being used to reverse.
In this case, the drug wore off before the patient’s respiratory system had returned to full function, leaving her deprived of oxygen and causing her to fall into cardiac arrest, suffering brain damage in the process.
Lawyers argued that the anaesthetist ought to have been aware of this danger and instructed the recovery room nurse both of the fact that Doxopram had been given, and that there was a need for close monitoring of her breathing.
It is believed that either this instruction was not given or, if it was given, it was not followed.
As a result of her injuries, she has motor and cognitive impairments which involve major difficulties in memory, mental speed and limited insight into her condition.
Her motor impairment involves slowness of movement, difficulty with fine finger movements and problems with balance, meaning she is constantly at risk of falling.
She also tires easily, has lost her sense of taste and chokes on liquids and has developed a condition that causes involuntary muscle jerks called myoclonus.
Liability was admitted by the trust at an early stage and a settlement of £11 million was agreed which will help fund the 24-hour care she requires for the rest of her life.