An 89-year-old woman had a stroke and died after her GP left her without vital blood-thinning medication for more than a week when switching her course of treatment.
The woman was under the care of Dr Thirumagal Venugopal at Hessle Grange Medical Practice in East Yorkshire, and had been taking warfarin medication for an irregular heart rate and heart failure since 2012.
As part of her ongoing treatment she needed regular tests to check the speed her blood was clotting, with the results impacting on her daily medication doses.
However, due to her finding it difficult to make appointments, she asked to switch to an alternative oral medication – apixaban – which did not require regular monitoring and needed only a standard daily dose.
The patient, whose family have asked that she not be named, was given the go-ahead to change medication in February 2015.
However, as part of a legal case against the GP through medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, it was alleged she was wrongly advised to check her blood clotting levels for up to 10 days before switching to apixaban.
An independent expert haematologist, consulted as part of the legal case, said given her blood levels, she could in fact have started on her new medication a day after stopping taking the warfarin.
It was alleged the resulting eight day delay in switching medication courses contributed to her suffering a stroke, leaving her completely blind, and ultimately contributing to her death a few months later.
Liability not disputed and led to five-figure damages settlement with family
The GP’s indemnifier did not dispute liability, and agreed to pay the patient’s family a five-figure compensation settlement without the matter reaching court.
The patient’s daughter said she wanted other people to be aware of the dangers, and said taking legal action had been about ensuring lessons were learned. Her mother had lived independently since the death of her husband 12 years previously, but needed round-the-clock care following her stroke.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through this. It was absolutely appalling,” she said.
“No amount of compensation can ever come close to what mum went through, but we wanted someone to take responsibility for what happened to her. At the age of 89, you expect people to die, but not in that way. It’s heart-breaking.
“Although she couldn’t walk very well, mum lived independently and coped well before she had her stroke. But afterwards, she lost her independence. When we went to see mum after the stroke, she asked what we were doing there because she thought it was night time. But she had gone completely blind. She was so confused.
“She was in hospital for about a month and then we had carers in place for her at home three times a day. But after three months, she went into residential care as a temporary measure. She was so disorientated and couldn’t even find her way to the toilet. She wasn’t capable of looking after herself.
“She lost interest in everything. Her pleasure previously was going into town or to a garden centre with me. I miss her so much. She was a huge part of my life and I feel completely lost without her.”
‘Lessons need to be learned to prevent mistake happening again’ – solicitor Michelle Tebbutt
Solicitor Michelle Tebbutt, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented the family.
She said: “This lady and her brother have lost their mother and their children have lost their grandmother. Prior to the stroke, she lived at home independently and, while she found it difficult to get to the doctors for her blood tests, she was fully able to care for herself.
“The stroke changed her life vastly and once she left hospital, she was dependent on care. Although she was of late age, this family have lost her earlier than would have been expected.
“Death is never easy and the fact it could have been avoided makes it worse, but now some responsibility has been accepted as a damages settlement was offered, and hopefully it will go some way to providing some closure for her devastated family.
“We can only hope the GP and the practice will have taken on board their mistakes with a view to this never happening again.”