Six-figure settlement for failure to diagnose and treat tetanus infection

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Amanda Cavanagh achieved a six-figure settlement for Mr X regarding the death of his wife after the hospital’s failure to diagnose and treat tetanus infection.

Tetanus is a life-threatening disease, although it has become rare due to the rollout of tetanus vaccines over the last 40 years or so. However, certain generations may not have had the vaccine, or vaccination occurred so long ago that the efficacy of the immunisation has diminished.

Prior to her passing, Mrs X enjoyed gardening. She sustained a scratch to her leg from a garden cane which despite cleaning became infected. A few days after seeking advice at the out-of-hours GP, Mrs X awoke with symptoms of struggling to breathe, her jaw had locked and she was experiencing stiffness in her back and shoulders, all of which are strong indicators of a tetanus infection.

Mrs X attended A&E at the hospital on three separate occasions over the following 12 days or so, she was given painkillers and muscle relaxants and was sent home. The family’s repeated questions about whether this could be tetanus were dismissed by her GP, paramedics, and the hospital. Mrs X’s condition deteriorated, and eventually, she was admitted to another hospital and transferred immediately to the ICU with a suspected tetanus infection. She suffered multiple cardiac arrests while in ICU and sadly passed away.

The hospital admitted failure to consider tetanus as a possible diagnosis but alleged that earlier treatment would not have made any material difference to the outcome. This was rebutted by Mr X’s expert evidence and settlement was achieved between the parties.

Although pleased that settlement has been achieved, it provides very little comfort to Mr X in the wake of his loss.

Amanda Cavanagh comments: “Mrs X’s death was avoidable. But for the failure to consider tetanus and earlier intervention with immunoglobulin, Mrs X would, on balance have survived. She and her husband could have continued to enjoy their latter years together. Mrs X’s family are understandably angry and upset about the failures in treatment which led to her death and no amount of compensation will ever bring her back”.

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