Hospital agrees compensation for death of pregnant mother following inadequate A&E care

Posted: 16/07/2013


Penningtons Solicitors LLP has negotiated a claim for substantial damages against Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Foundation Trust for the family of a 28 year old Kent woman, Rebecca Ben-Nejma, who died as a result of a hospital team’s failure to recognise and manage her ectopic pregnancy when she visited A&E.

Rebecca, who lived in Maidstone and was married with two children, aged 12 and 17 months, was taken to the A&E department at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Hospital on Friday 17 December 2010 after experiencing severe abdominal pains. She was seven weeks pregnant. Although she was examined and advised of a possible ectopic pregnancy, she was sent home with the direction that the earliest possible scan was on Monday 20 December.

Her condition substantially worsened overnight and on the morning of Saturday 18 December she attended A&E for a second time. At this point she was in a great deal of pain and had vomited numerous times. Regardless of her suspected ectopic pregnancy, which the A & E department was aware of, a diagnosis of gastroenteritis was made. Although the senior house officer who examined Rebecca discussed with the registrar the option of transferring her to Pembury Hospital in order to investigate her condition more thoroughly, the registrar concluded, without personally examining Rebecca, that she was unlikely to be suffering from an ectopic pregnancy due to the ‘diffuse nature’ of her pain. Again she was discharged with instructions that her condition be reviewed on the following Monday.

The next morning, her family called an ambulance to her home. At this stage Rebecca was in agonising pain, gasping for air and had difficulty speaking. While the paramedics were there, she suffered a heart attack. Both her mother and 12 year old daughter were present when she collapsed and during attempts to resuscitate her. Rebecca was taken to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Hospital by air ambulance as a result of poor weather conditions to undergo an emergency operation to remove the ectopic pregnancy. During surgery she suffered another heart attack and had to be resuscitated. Tragically she did not recover from this. Over the following 12 hours various tests were performed but no brain activity could be found. She died on 21 December 2010.

The claim by Rebecca’s family relates both to general damages in relation to her pain and suffering in the days before her death and to their own loss. Her husband has developed depression while her daughter has suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Foundation Trust subsequently accepted complete liability for the delayed diagnosis of Rebecca’s ectopic pregnancy, admitting that there were inappropriate failures in her care on 18 December 2010. Had the medical team treated her condition immediately, Rebecca’s death would have been avoided.

John Kyriacou, a partner in Penningtons’ clinical negligence team, represented the Ben-Nejma family. Commenting on the settlement achieved in July 2013, he said: “This was a very distressing case which has left two young children without a mother. It also highlights increasing concerns raised in a number of recent reports relating to the standards of NHS care received by some patients over the weekend. While the recognition of negligence and the settlement will help the family to some extent, it will not alleviate their enormous sense of loss and anguish at such an unnecessary series of events.”


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