Family compensated after clinical negligence at Northampton General leads to patient death15 April 2014
Organ failure after bile leak went unnoticed
The husband of a woman who died from organ failure after what should have been a routine gall bladder operation has secured damages with the help of Thompsons Solicitors.
Martin Balfe from Northampton lost his 62-year-old wife when consultant surgeons at the Northampton General Hospital failed to identify and treat a bile leak which occurred during the surgery and which later caused her organs to fail.
Surgeon failed to take action
Mrs Balfe was in good health and was expected to make a full recovery from the operation on her gall bladder. However, during the operation on June 13 2011, her surgeon, despite noting that her bile duct and tubes were swollen, progressed as normal with the surgery, which involved applying a clip to her bile tube. This later proved fatal.
After the operation, Mrs Balfe experienced severe abdominal pain but a post-operation x-ray did not pick up the bile leak, instead she was only offered pain relief.
Her condition rapidly deteriorated and she was moved to critical care two days after the operation.
It was only when she was taken for open surgery to investigate her continued illness that the bile leak was discovered.
Mrs Balfe never regained consciousness from the second operation and was on a life support machine as her organs began to fail.
Mr Balfe subsequently discovered that the clip used to secure his wife’s swollen bile tube had become loose as the swelling had eased, meaning the clip was too big to hold the tube and resulted in the leak.
Mrs Balfe remained under observation at the Northampton General Hospital but developed a generalised infection and during the early hours of June 17 2011 her life support machine was turned off.
“Consultants let my wife die”
Martin Balfe said: “I cannot begin to describe how I feel about the situation surrounding my wife’s death.
“In my opinion the consultants at Northampton General Hospital let her die. She had definite signs of complications as soon as she came round from her first operation. In the days that followed, I watched her body fight the poison from the bile until the consultants finally realised the seriousness of her situation and operated on her again.
“It should have been a routine operation, she was a healthy woman despite problems with her gall bladder. Her death was avoidable and the fault is with Northampton General Hospital for the delay in treating her obvious symptoms.”
An entirely avoidable death
Sharon Banga, a clinical negligence solicitor from Thompsons Solicitors who represented Mr Balfe, said: “This is an extremely sad situation and something that should have never happened.
“We worked with Martin and the family to seek answers as to why the delays in treatment occurred. The leak should have been identified and treated earlier and the consultants should have paid more attention to Mrs Balfe’s symptoms.
“The negligent delay in treatment led to her death, and it is only right that the family who have lost a loving wife and Mother should be compensated for that incompetence and their loss.”
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