It was reported that in 2018 a hospital drug mix up meant a 77 year old lady from Plymouth, Devon, was wide awake during her heart surgery at Derriford Hospital. Patricia Otty said, “I was wide awake during my heart surgery”.
It turned out she was given the Death Row lethal injection ingredient, this meant she became paralysed so there was no way of her to communicate with the surgeons, this was caused by the muscle relaxant rocuronium, The painkiller fentanyl was not given at all, so Ms Otty was in agony.
When her heart stopped as a result of the wrong drug being given, she had to be resuscitated, by which point any anaesthetic she had in her system has worn off. She was given half the usual dose of the general anaesthetic thiopentone for a woman of her age and size.
Since the operation took place, Ms Otty was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she regularly suffers from nightmares where she is choking and experiencing excruciating pain. She said she 'implicitly' recalls the procedure, but cannot explicitly remember because of the effects of a sleeping pill.
As a result of this a £32,000 settlement was agreed by University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust. The Trust has admitted breaching its duty of care in 2018 over the wrongful administration of the medicine, it has made 11 learning recommendations. They said, 'We're truly sorry, nobody should go through an experience like this. That's why we accepted liability and made the payment.'
Tozers’ medical law specialist Stuart Bramley observes –
“Anaesthetic awareness claims are unusual now, although sadly much more commonplace a decade or so ago. Much-welcomed improvements in monitoring the patent during surgery have been introduced so the sort of agony Patricia Otty underwent at Plymouth are thankfully now rare
That of course doesn’t diminish how dreadful this experience must have been for her. Any surgical procedure would be painful without anaesthesia; but an open-heart operation like this will have seemed terrifying when Ms Otty also lacked the ability to communicate with the staff. It is to the hospital’s credit that as well as paying her the compensation she so clearly deserves, they have also issued an unreserved apology and taken steps to avoid a recurrence. I do hope this is the last such incident I read about”.
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