Claims dismissed in medical negligence suit over soup

Date: Jul 10, 2020

The case of a man who was served soup by hospital staff after gastrointestinal surgery has been dismissed by a New South Wales court after the judge found the hospital did not breach its duty of care.

In August 2015, plaintiff Brian Hawkins was in Campbelltown Hospital, controlled by the South Western Sydney Local Health District, for a surgical procedure involving his colon, according to court documents. Subsequent to that procedure, the surgeon recommended a "nil by mouth" diet, meaning Hawkins could not eat or drink anything except for small amounts of water from sucking on ice.

Where the claims arose

Four days after this order, Hawkins' diet was changed to allow for fluids, such as "creamed or smooth soups, jelly custard and yoghurt as well as clear liquids," the documents stated. But shortly after consuming a meal made up of those items, as well as a soup "with pieces of chicken and bits of potato floating around," Hawkins began to experience nausea, cramping and vomiting. The suit alleged that the nursing staff did not notify the surgeon of this issue until the next day, and that as a result of the vomiting, Hawkins ruptured the wound from his surgery.

The court's decision

The judge in the case, Richard Weinstein, found in favour of the defence on several fronts, the findings showed. First and foremost, he noted that Hawkins admits his recollection of the events was "vague," and that the hospital itself had a system of checks in place to ensure and record that meals meet physicians' recommendations. Furthermore, it was noted that Hawkins did not mention the chicken soup to any physicians caring for him until almost two years after the initial incident took place.

In the end, the court found that the claims of medical negligence amounted to thin soup.

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