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Hospital Negligence Caused Young Mother's Meningitis Death, Court Rules

Proving that a patient's death or injury was caused by clinical negligence can be an extremely demanding task, involving minute analysis of technical expert evidence. However, a High Court case concerning a young mother's death from meningitis showed the full extent of what specialist lawyers can achieve.

The woman, who was in her 30s and had two small children, had no underlying health problems. What began with an ear infection developed into a severe case of bacterial meningitis. By the time she arrived at hospital by ambulance, she described the level of her pain as 11 on a scale of one to 10.

Following her death, her widower launched proceedings. The NHS trust that ran the hospital admitted clinical negligence in that she should have been given intravenous antibiotics two hours and 40 minutes earlier than she was. It argued, however, that the unusually rapid progress of her exceptionally severe infection meant that she would not in any event have survived.

After considering evidence from a number of medical experts during a four-day trial, the Court found that her infection, although virulent, would have been amenable to treatment with intravenous antibiotics, if started early enough. But for the negligent delay in taking that step, she would probably not have died. The award payable to her widower and children was agreed.