Hunter region family resolves claim following death of father and husband for over $350,000 against major local hospital

Published 27 Jun 2017

In this tragic case, a family from the hunter region in NSW brought proceedings against a local hospital for a failure to provide appropriate treatment for the family patriarch who was at high risk of suffering a heart attack.

In around mid-2014, the deceased was admitted to hospital following the presentation of chest pains. He was diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome. A number of consultations took place and a decision was made to replace an aortic valve. This operation took place approximately one week later. Following the operation, it was noted that the deceased appeared confused and responded extremely poorly to his medication.  Instead of being taken to ICU for intensive monitoring and treatment, he was returned to the ward and diagnosed as suffering from delirium. Two days later his condition deteriorated further with the development of an irregular heartbeat and increased agitation. Despite this, no action was taken and the following morning he tragically passed away.

Understandably distressed, his family had approached Gerard Malouf and Partners where Mr Leslie Abboud, a skilled litigator with over 30 years of experience in medical negligence litigation, took carriage of the matter. Mr Abboud obtained all the relevant medical records from all family members and for the deceased and in reviewing the records briefed expert cardiologist to comment upon the care and management provided to the deceased.

In doing so, it was found that the deceased was at a high risk of arrhythmia and was also at high risk of the beating of his heart ceasing. Moreover it was identified that he was not transferred back to the intensive care unit when his delirium persisted and he began to develop signs of further deterioration. It was found that it was grossly inappropriate to refer him back to the ward following his surgery , when he fit the bill of a classic ICU patient and should have been dealt with appropriately in such an environment.

Moreover, it was identified that, had it not been for such a failure by the hospital to have him intensively monitored and treated, his deterioration would have been picked up earlier and intervention would have been undertaken at an earlier stage thus avoiding his unnecessary death and the unnecessary pain and suffering his family now have to endure.

Armed with this damning evidence, Mr Abboud briefed and expert barrister to assist in this case and began obtaining expert evidence from psychiatrists to establish a nervous shock case on behalf of the four family members of the deceased.  It appeared on the evidence, the only issue in this case was not a matter of whether or not the hospital failed or not but rather the degree to which each of the Plaintiff had suffered psychiatric harm.

By way of background, it should be noted that in Australia the cause of action for wrongful death does not exist unfortunately. This leaves many aggrieved family members with no option but to commence proceedings for their own psychiatric injuries as a result of the negligent passing of a loved one. This forces an individual to have their lives undergo a microscope inspection irrespective of a death of a loved one occasioned by the negligence of an organisation. Unfortunately, there is no other way for this litigation to be conducted and there is no other resolution available to these individuals following the horrific death of a loved one.

Nonetheless, Mr Abboud obtained expert psychiatric evidence of the damage suffered by each of the Plaintiff’s following the death of their husband/father and in doing so was able to establish a case I nervous shock against this hospital. In an attempt to minimise any further harm caused by protracted and difficult hearing in court, Mr Abboud arranged for a mediation to take place where the matters resolved for over $350,000.00.

Whilst we understand that this settlement would never bring back their loss, we hope it assists in providing them with the sense of justice in closure.

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