Debilitating neurological condition allowed to deteriorate after medical team disagrees on treatment

Mr G was admitted to hospital with weakness in both of his arms and legs in November 2016.  A stroke was ruled out but an MRI scan showed that in addition to some arthritis in his hips, Mr G’s cervical cord in his spine was being squeezed and compressed due to ageing and wear and tear.  The only treatment as surgery.  The only treatment available was surgery.  This is complex and risk surgery but without it, Mr G was told that his symptoms would progress and he so agreed to have the operation.

Over the next three weeks, Mr G remained an inpatient in hospital and the same surgeon would come to discuss the spinal decompression surgery with him almost daily.  Mr G was led to believe that the operation could happened at any time and they were just waiting for a suitable date.  However, unbeknown to Mr G, the team who were making the decision as to whether to offer Mr G surgery were in dispute because they were not all in agreement as to the cause of Mr G’s symptoms.

One senior Surgeon in particular thought the cause of Mr G’s symptoms was pain caused by arthritis in his left hip.  It was his view that if he underwent a hip replacement operation, Mr G would be able to mobilise again.  Decompression surgery would not help with this.

Ultimately, Mr G had hip surgery but when he was reviewed afterwards his neurological position was found to be the same.  He was still unable to mobilise but he was now also without enough power in his arms to help with his own transfers.  When he was discharged from hospital, in addition to a wheelchair, he also needed an electric stand aid and a hoist.

Over the next few weeks, Mr G had less and less function in his arms.  He became unable to sit in a chair without assistance and he was losing the ability to feed himself and do other every day tasks with his arms and hands.  Arrangements were made for him to have a further MRI scan which was not materially different to the previous scan.  Further discussions took place between the Surgeons and this time the dissenting Surgeon was over-ruled.  Mr G’s surgery was eventually carried out after a 3 month delay in which he had lost further function in his upper limbs which could not be recovered.

Mr G did a complaint to the hospital about the delay in his treatment.  The response to the complaint suggested that the delay was caused by Mr G’s reluctance to have the necessary surgery.  Mr G then instructed us to investigate his treatment further.  When we undertook a review of his medical records, they revealed the true nature of the delay in his operation was due to the disagreement between the surgeons on how to treat Mr G when Mr G had already consented to the spinal surgery very early on.

Investigations were commenced with a specialist and allegations of an unnecessary delay were put to the Hospital Trust.  The Trust admitted that the hospital had breached their duty of care to Mr G in failing to operate on his spine earlier and this had allowed his condition to deteriorate unnecessarily.

Tragically Mr G passed away from an unrelated condition before his claim could be settled.  His wife inherited his right to sue for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity he had experienced and we were able to negotiate a significant 5 figure settlement.

It is worth saying that it is not always unreasonable or negligent for medical professionals to have differences of opinion but on this occasion when time was of the essence and earlier surgery would have afforded Mr G a more comfortable life, it was unacceptable not to treat the more severe and threatening condition first.

Failures in medical treatment or lack of treatment can cause existing injuries or conditions to worsen and injured patients are entitled to be compensated for this.  If you would like to discuss any type of injury caused by medical treatment please get in touch with us for free specialist advice.

Ashleigh Holt – March 2021