Emily Pierce has had epilepsy since she was six, though her fits didn't get bad until she was about 14. At the age of 19, Pierce was referred to a neurologist in Brisbane, and then in Victoria in order to pursue a surgery that would cure her epilepsy.
In order to determine whether or not Pierce was a good candidate for surgery, she needed to undergo an electroencephalographic monitoring of the brain activity (EEG). It was during this procedure that the hospital failed to look after the patient adequately.
The hospital's medical negligence
The testing required Pierce's brain activity to be monitored during a seizure. Underneath the hospital's supervision, the doctor's induced a seizure through medication withdrawal and sleep deprivation. The patient proceeded to have an episode that lasted for nearly three hours, involving simple and complex partial seizures and on to a more serious and prolonged period of seizure activity called complex partial status epilepticus (CPSE).
The hospitals admitted that it failed to treat Pierce's seizure event in a timely manner which disallowed the staff from providing appropriate care. Pierce claims that this negligence caused significant and permanent deteriorative change in the pre-existing condition. Specifically, she noted changes in the 'nature, frequency and character' of the seizure activity.
The court case
The issues in the appeal include:
- Whether the primary judge was justified in concluding that Pierce suffered from a progressively deteriorating condition;
- Whether the evidence justified the primary judge's conclusion that the burden of Pierce's epilepsy worsened following the hospital's treatment;
- Whether the primary judge was justified in concluding that the worsening, going beyond a natural deterioration, was caused or materially contributed to by the hospital's negligence; and
- The challenge by both parties to the primary judge's assessment of damages.
The court's decision
The court accepted that Pierce's condition was worsened due to the hospital's negligence even after considering the pre-existing epilepsy. The judge ordered that the appellant pay 60 per cent of Pierce's costs of the appeal, awarding her with $1,672,790.75.
If you or a loved one have had a similar situation in which a medical facility did not adequately look after you during a medical procedure, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation to find out whether you are entitled to a medical negligence claim.