Hospital sued over death of middle-aged woman after common procedure

Date: Feb 07, 2020

A 55-year-old Victorian woman died from multiple organ failure 12 days after a common surgical procedure took place, according to a statement claim filed in the Victorian Supreme Court. The claim alleges that a piece of medical equipment used in the procedure was not properly cleaned, and that the defendant is thus medically liable for the victim’s death.

A spokesperson the defendant said there would be no comment until the allegations had been reviewed, but the family (the woman’s husband, twin daughters and son) is suing the hospital, saying there was no reason the victim should have succumbed after such a common procedure.

The victim

On 4 February 2016, the victim underwent a relatively non-invasive procedure to have a remaining gallstone removed. She had been through a similar operation just seven months earlier, and neither she nor her family felt there was any cause for alarm.

The swift decline

However, within days of the procedure, the victim had severe (13 kg) fluid buildup, was in severe pain, couldn’t breathe properly and began to experience kidney failure. She was placed in intensive care seven days after the operation, and four days later, her family made the decision to switch off the machines keeping her alive.

The cause of death

The statement of claim alleges an infection caused by a rare bug known as Raoultella ornithinolytica led to the victim’s death from sepsis. The plaintiffs say they have not yet received a precise explanation of how and why their mother died, and have taken legal action against St John of God Health Care, alleging the hospital was negligent and failed in its duty of care.

The circumstances

Court documents allege the hospital failed to follow protocol, which required a “high level of disinfection” of the duodenoscope within a required time frame prior to the surgery. The claim further states that the device had been cleaned almost 48 hours before – not within the 12-hour window mandated to reduce the odds of infection. Now, the family is suing the hospital for psychological trauma, nervous shock, loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity.

Hospital spokespersons stated: “A coronial investigation into the death of the patient was undertaken in accordance with standard process and determined that no further investigation was required.” The case is still pending.

Loss of a loved one to medical negligence should mean significant compensation for those left behind. Consult with the legal experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to find out more.

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