JUST A QUICK QUESTION....... Damages??

Tell us a bit about yourself here.
Has anyone ever been successful in claiming damages regarding hospital treatment, and,
secondly, should one try and claim damages when the NHS is so strapped for cash?
My husband was unwell for a few weeks before he died of a massive heart attack at 58. The doctors thought his symptoms were caused be arthritis. A post mortem showed he had a previous heart attack.. He had legal expenses insurance as part of our breakdown and our home insurance policies and they paid for £10,000 of legal investigations, which established that whatever the docs had done, he was so ill that in effect, he wws a "dead man walking" so suing the doctors wasn't appropriate. However I am glad we went down that route, as it gave the family closure. This sort of case has to be dealt with by a specialist solicitor who was really kind and gentle, it was a healing process for me in total, but going over what happened was difficult. So I'd recommend doing it, BUT THERE IS A TIME LIMIT and it takes a while to prepare a case, so get the ball rolling asap.
Just to give you some idea.

Being on county borders we are served by two major hospitals.

Jan 2016

Admitted to hospital A,( across county border) diagnosed with Crohn's - discharged after 3 weeks.

December 2016
Called 111, sent to local hospital where doctor was very concerned and said she thought there was a sepsis going on and he was then:-

Admitted to hospital B ( because I phoned 111 and follow on had to be within county)
Hospital B kept him for 2 nights and discharged him on Christmas Eve.

29th December 2016

Definitely something wrong - go to GP who calls ambulance and he is rushed to hospital A. BP 80/40 amongst other things.
Three weeks of treatment failed to succeed

18th Jan 2017
Told he would die without major surgery, which took place following day, colon removed,ileostomy constructed

5th Feb

He was discharged.


Dementia now diagnosed - early signs before operation, but rapid progress since.
He cannot manage stoma and bag
He is very resentful of stoma and bag ( understandably, as he could not give consent to op)
He has lost driving license, which makes him very unhappy as he cannot understand why. He finds previously easy tasks difficult to achieve if at all. Spends most of his time watching day time television, when he loathed TV before and we did not even have a TV.
Our lives have gone rapidly down hill


If hospital B had not discharged him after only 2 nights, and treatment started then instead of 7 days later, could the operation been avoided? Were they negligent?
DEFINITELY take legal action. Check all your insurance policies, like me, you may have no idea if you actually have "legal expenses insurance" on one or more of them, and even less idea what it can be used for. Otherwise think about a "no win, no fee" solicitor.
Whatever happens, ultimately it will give you closure. That's a word I always hated before all this happened to me, but I can't think of a better word.
After my husband died "What if...?" went round and round my brain, should I have done something differently, could I, when, etc. etc. It also means I could explain to all his devastated friends as well, because I'm sure the same thoughts occurred to them as well. Now my sons and I can go forward, we know the answers to the questions.
I agree with BB that you should see a specialist solicitor. I can't say if you have a chance, though, considering how rapidly sepsis proceeds. But you must collect as much evidence as you can of what went wrong on what dates, find the paperwork, discharge forms and so on. There are time limits too (three years?) If there really is a case, the solicitor will send a letter before action to the hospital and the hospital may decide it is cheaper for them to make you an offer of damages than to proceed with a court case.
Greta wrote:I agree with BB that you should see a specialist solicitor. I can't say if you have a chance, though, considering how rapidly sepsis proceeds. But you must collect as much evidence as you can of what went wrong on what dates, find the paperwork, discharge forms and so on. There are time limits too (three years?) If there really is a case, the solicitor will send a letter before action to the hospital and the hospital may decide it is cheaper for them to make you an offer of damages than to proceed with a court case.
Thank you Greta, that is a very helpful answer. I know nothing about sepsis -but given what you say about it and the rapidity with which it proceeds, the wasted week when he was sent home and we thought he was OK would possibly have made a difference perhaps to the outcome...... thanks again.
It's a difficult question, isn't it? (Which is stating the obvious, sorry).

I think there are (at least) two things to consider:

- what outcome do you want, and why?

For example, do you mostly want an 'apology'? An outright admission by the erring hospital that they were wrong. eg 'Dear Mr x, we are very sorry you have ended up this way. It was very wrong of us. We apologise wholeheartedly. It was our fault, and we accept our guilt.'

Or do you, say, mostly want 'financial compensation' simply because a sizeable wodge of money would make dealing with the problems he now has far easier in practice?

If I said to you - you can only have ONE of the above, which would it be?

I ask this because answering it, or even looking at the question, may indicate to you what is 'driving' you on this quest, which may, in turn, guide you as to how you steer (if at all.)

- Do you want, as BB and others say, to get 'closure'? To be able, finally, to put this behind you or out of your mind, so it stops plaguing you, so you are 'free' to deal with the resulting situation (whoever's fault it was, or even just the 'bad luck' or whatever that chucks the dice of our life up in the air and they fall as they will with no 'control' over them.)

- Are you searching for 'reasons', for 'explanations' as to why this bad thing happened to your partner? One of the things that I think searching for 'culpability' can provide is a sense of 'control' which I mentioned a bit in the paragraph above. Human seek control - sense, reason, logic, order, cause/effect - etc etc. It's in our nature to 'make sense of the world'. So, when 'bad things happen' we want to know 'why'? That's not unreasonable, and it may be that it is impossible to be a human being without coming up with some 'reason' that 'makes sense' to us, whatever our belief systems. That can range from a kind of 'fatalism' to 'God is punishing me' to 'the universe is chaotic and random, and this bad stuff just happened chaotically and randomly'....or, of course, in this instance 'this bad thing happened through avoidable human error' (ie, a mistakenly early discharge which, given the ate, Xmas Eve, does look 'suspiciously' (?!) like it was part of a general 'clearing out' before what was probably a short-staffed Xmas Day).

- Are you thinking through 'alternative scenarios', and if so, are you doing so 'sufficiently', or are you at risk of being 'tunnel-visioned'? ie, are you thinking 'oh, if only the hospital had kept him in over Xmas, done more tests, and then the op might not have been necessary, or much less severe in its results!'. To answer this you'll need medical expertise, but even then, bear in mind that a doctor can only cite precedents and case studies of similar patients, not the actual what WOULD have happened. And doctors may disagree on the impact of earlier or different treatment.

- Remember, too, that the 'alternative scenarios' ALSO include WORSE outcomes. From your partner dying in theatre, or being paralysed, or any number of other 'even badder things'.....sometimes thinking that through can make us I won't say 'grateful' for the outcome that did happen, but maybe 'put things in broader perspective'.

I'm not saying any of this to 'put you off' more to try and help you think through, in the broadest possible vista, what might be 'going on in your head' right now.

I do understand up to a point what you are agonising over - because, like BB, I went through it with my husband after he died. I replayed over and over again the 'what ifs' of how he'd gone so 'catastrophically' from someone you would hardly know had terminal cancer, to being at death's door (and then dying). With hindsight I can see all sorts of 'errors' along the way, as in, decisions made that should not have been made, (mostly by me, not calling 'Help' soon enough - but then my husband was fighting cancer on HIS terms, and that was based on 'Don't make a fuss about it, I can do this!' - which had been a brilliantly successful psychology for him up till that critical moment when I SHOULD have made a fuss!)(sigh) (20:20 hindsight, alas). BUT, I also know that the decisions that were made were made 'in good faith' and with 'the best available knowledge' at the time they were made.

I think, Mary, it's a very personal decision that only you can make (and I say 'you' because your partner's dementia now rules him out, I know), and that's why I pose the questions above, to see what 'comes out' when you churn them all. An answer that might be 'right' for me may be 'wrong' for you, depending on our particular psychologies etc etc. (Though it could be practical too, eg, the cost of suing vs the usefulness of any payout!)

If any of the above has helped you 'decide' in any way, to any extent, great - if not, delete it!

KR as ever, Jenny
I think Greta raises a very good point, which resonates with me in my own circumstances, and maybe in yours too.

She was saying how rapidly sepsis takes hold.

I think one of the things that laypeople perhaps fail to understand is how our bodies are both simultaneously 'resilient' and 'fragile'. We can do SO much 'bad stuff' to them (think obesity!) on a chronic basis, and our good old bodies just cope with it all, and cope with all, and cope with it all, and with only 'minor' downsides (eg, looking fat and horrible!).

BUT, at some point, we 'flip' from resilient to 'fragile', and then a situation which has seemed 'manageable' abruptly becomes 'unmanageable' - or, perhaps 'runaway' or even 'catastrophic'.

I think that brute reality can shock us layfolk, because we don't understand that we can take in a 'quite but not very' ill person to hospital, and before we know it they are at death's door....

In respect of your own position, I guess the 'only' question really is, how 'stoppable' (or even perhaps 'significantly slowable') was your husband's condition? What would have been the BEST possible outcome? And what are the case-study-based 'probabilities' of him having achieved that 'best' outcome?

(Probabilities are important, because, as I know from Cancerworld, it is all that the doctors can go on - they can only cite statistics to you in terms of life-expectancy etc, and some patients do better, some worse - for very 'personal' reasons.)

And what, of course, might have been the worse outcome?

(Adding another question to the ones in the post above - is what you are most wanting is for the medical profession to 'reassure' you, ie, 'Dear Mary, you have our word that what has happened is the best anyone could expect, and would have happened anyway, even if he'd been kept in' - do you need 'permission' to accept what has happened?)
Mary - final questions (sorry to go on!)


- In respect of his physical limitations now (stoma) and his mental ones (dementia) which do you think is causing you the most 'grief' (ie, emotional upset/practical difficulties)?

If, as I suspect, it is reasonable to say the latter (ie, the dementia) because it has 'destroyed' your partnership and 'lost' you the man he once was, ie, a mentally well person, even with a much-loathed stoma, would still be your partner, and your joint quality of life would be FAR better. (ie, if you had to choose between 'well mind and stoma' and 'no stoma but dementia' I suspect, wouldn't you, you'd take the former??)

If that is so, then maybe the 'real' question is not 'why did he end up with a stoma' but 'why did he end up with dementia'?

And then it's a question of asking whether the physical trauma (acutely infected gut), the sepsis (poisoned blood and systems) even the sepsis per se (ie, an infected, inflamed brain ), maybe even the anaesthetic (too much for a belagured brain), the emotional trauma (waking up to a stoma) were themselves significant 'accelerators' of a dementia that does seem to have been incipient beforehand (though maybe caused originally by the Crohns)(the relationshiop between gut and brain/mind is very complex and powerful, with our gut being called 'our second brain'....and, of course, at the moment, still highly mysterious).

If, then, your focus is primarily on the causes of his accelerated dementia, then, I guess, the medical questions shift a little, in that they become more on the association between his physical trauma and his mental/cerebral trauma, and how often, in case studies, the former causes the latter. (That said, of course, if there is no physical trauma in the first place - ie, it might have been avoided by keeping him longer in hospital over Xmas - then there wouldn't have been any question of any resultant accelerated dementia!)

Finally the final question for you -

- Are you simply 'angry'? Are you 'lashing out' at 'someone to punish' for what has happened to you, your life 'smashed to pieces' by what has happened to your partner (and angry on his behalf too)? Do you want to 'punish' the erring hospital/doctors above all?

It would be PERFECTLY understandable to be 'angry' predominantly. Life ISN'T fair, as we all know, and anger is a perfectly 'rational' response to that injustice - the base injustice of 'why do bad things happen to people who are not bad'.....

Right, I've said enough, time to back off - sorry for having chucked all this at you - like I say, if any is useful, good, if not, chuck.

It's all very useful to me, as I have no one I can ask these things of that have the expertise you all have....

I can tell from what you are saying that my mind is in a spin, and there are so many problems of all kinds in my life that are insoluble at the moment.

Just for now, he wants me to go and watch TV with him, so I will think over what you have said and respond more fully later......