A recent news article tells the story of a four year old boy who died from sepsis after hospital doctors sent him home before test results confirmed that he had a potentially deadly infection.
An inquest heard that Sheldon Farnell’s condition appeared to be improving and he was discharged, but at home he took a turn for the worse. Meanwhile, hospital staff were trying to phone the family to let them know the results had shown the boy needed urgent treatment, but an admin error meant the contact details were taken from the wrong person. By the time Sheldon was rushed back to hospital he could not be saved.
A post-mortem examination found he died of ‘overwhelming sepsis’ that resulted from an ear infection.
Co-head of our Medical Negligence team, Stuart Bramley, writes, "It is tragic to read of yet another unnecessary death from undiagnosed sepsis. What happened to Sheldon Farnell is even more heartbreaking since the doctors did eventually recognise the nature of his infection but then couldn’t notify his parents as they had taken the wrong contact details. Even that aspect of the story seems surprising – any patient attending A&E will need to supply not just a mobile and/or landline phone number but also their address. Knowing that Sheldon had sepsis, it begs the question why someone couldn’t have visited his parents at home to ensure they brought him back in immediately. I have handled a case where again, it was realised that a patient who had since left the hospital was carrying a potentially fatal Group B Strep infection but when she didn’t respond to their calls no further steps were taken and her baby died soon after delivery.
"Coroners do have a power to write to organisations following an inquest asking them to make changes that may save lives in similar circumstances arise and I sincerely hope the Durham coroner does so here. If not, tragedies like Sheldon’s will recur"
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