People who experience medical negligence at the hands of a health care practitioner can be eligible for compensation to cover the economic and non-economic costs that result from a breach of care.
Unfortunately, the worst cases of gross negligence can lead to the patient’s death, with criminal charges brought against the practitioners who are thought to be responsible.
This is the situation currently facing a Sydney nurse who has been accused of negligence so severe that it warrants a manslaughter charge. The woman is alleged to have contributed to the death of an elderly female due to crushing oral medication into an intravenous drip, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The 44-year-old made the decision, which is against protocol, after realising the patient was struggling to swallow. A grandmother of five, the 97-year old patient had been admitted to hospital on January 27 2009 with nausea, dehydration, angina, vomiting and a urinary tract infection.
She suffered a heart attack later that evening. However, despite doctors believing she would not survive the night, the courts heard her prognosis had improved by January 30, which is when the alleged medical negligence occurred.
Soon after the oral medication was administered through the IV, the patient experienced another major heart attack and died.
A subsequent report by a toxicology expert indicated the nurse’s actions likely contributed to the woman’s death.
“In a frail elderly woman recovering from a significant heart attack, the administration of crushed tablets, including metroprolol, as an IV infusion induced acute cardiac failure,” the document stated.
“One cannot predict how much longer the patient had to live, but it is likely the error precipitated an earlier death than would otherwise have occurred.”
The nurse is not contesting the charge that she wrongly administered medication to the patient, but is arguing that incident did not contribute to the woman’s death.
Even if her actions are considered to have had an impact, she is expected to refute that the negligence was so severe it warrants a criminal conviction.
The Sydney Morning Herald quoted the patient’s grandson as saying his grandmother’s health had improved significantly following the initial heart attack, adding: “I felt she was a lot better by then”. The case is ongoing.
If you feel you have a medical negligence claim to make, please contact a specialist compensation lawyer in NSW for more information on how to proceed.