Family sues hospital over death after common gallstone operation

Date: Dec 15, 2019

When 55-year-old Delphine Murphy went into the hospital in February 2016 to have a gallstone removed, she and her family expected her to be released from the hospital the next day. Instead, she remained in the hospital for 12 days until she died of complications that led to organ failure throughout her body.

Her family is now suing St. John of God Hospital in Bendigo, where they say doctors failed to provide proper care for Murphy. The medical negligence case includes allegations that hospital staff failed to properly clean a piece of equipment that was used during the surgery, which Murphy had also undergone seven months prior without incident. The family is suing for loss of earnings, loss of earning capacity, nervous shock and psychological trauma.

“She walks into a hospital for a simple procedure and doesn’t come out alive,” her son Sam Murphy said. “That is not normal.”

Unclean equipment

The suit alleges the hospital failed to follow cleaning protocol, which requires medical professionals to disinfect a duodenoscope, the equipment in question, 12 hours before the procedure. Instead, the hospital had not cleaned the device for 48 hours, and was coated in a rare strain of E. coli, which led to a bacterial infection throughout Murphy’s body.

Murphy suffered extreme physical pain after the surgery as her kidneys shut down, could not breathe properly and 13 kilograms of fluid built up in her body. After seven days, Murphy was placed in intensive care. By the 11th day after her surgery, her family made the decision to remove her from life support, as she had been placed in a medically induced coma.

“What I walked in and what I saw has haunted me to this day,” Sam Murphy said. “To see my mum so fragile, barely conscious, barely able to recognise me.”

No last goodbye

Her other children, twins Emma and Jane, said they also barely recognised their mother toward the abrupt end of her life.

Daughter Emma Jesser had been on holiday when her mother went into surgery, and by the time she returned as her mother’s condition worsened, Delphine Murphy had been put into an induced coma.

“I never got to say goodbye to her,” Emma Jesser said. “That is the biggest thing for me. I saw my mother so sick and not the person I remember.”

Speaking of his mother’s death, Sam Murphy expressed disbelief that a routine procedure could lead to such a tragic outcome.

“How that happens is something that I have never accepted and I don’t know if I ever will.”

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