Claim settled against Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust for the death of a cancer patient from drug errors

Posted: 23/07/2015


The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team has settled a claim on the behalf of the widow of a patient who died at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital following an overdose of heparin. The deceased was admitted with haematuria (blood in urine), recent weight loss, back pain, a change in bowel habits and extreme breathlessness. Investigations quickly identified that he had advanced pancreatic cancer and also a pulmonary embolism, for which he was provided with heparin. 

Later the same day, the deceased underwent an aspiration to draw fluid from his lung. Unfortunately, an administrative error on the ward led to him being prescribed with a further accidental dose of heparin. The deceased died shortly afterwards due to massive left haemothorax (bleeding into the lung). 

An inquest took place and the coroner concluded a verdict of death by misadventure. In her narrative verdict she said that the evidence pointed towards his death being caused by the overuse of heparin and aspiration of the lung. 

A clinical negligence claim was made and settled at an early stage when the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust made a money offer which was accepted. 

Lucie Prothero, who specialises in fatal accident cases within the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “This is a very sad case where a negligent error led to an overdose of heparin, with devastating consequences. The deceased was already very ill with his metastatic cancer diagnosis but these events foreshortened his life and robbed him and his family the opportunity to prepare for the final months of his life. The family is grateful at the sensible and compassionate approach taken by the trust to this claim, which has been resolved at an early stage.”


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