Our recent article on sepsis in children explained that sepsis is a dangerous complication of infection. Sometimes, death or serious injury from sepsis could have been avoided with quicker or different treatment. In these cases, the patient or their family may decide to investigate what happened by making a clinical negligence claim.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a very serious complication that can quickly spread to the body’s internal organs and cause tissue damage, organ failure and death. It can start with an infection in any part of the body. For example, the infection may be external, from a wound, or internal, starting in the lungs, urinary tract, stomach or elsewhere. Sometimes, the source of sepsis is never identified.
Why is sepsis so dangerous?
Fortunately, sepsis is rare and most infections do not lead to sepsis. It is also treatable and many patients with sepsis make a full recovery. However, it spreads extremely quickly so it is important to act as fast as possible if you or someone in your family has an infection.
You should be treated with IV antibiotics within one hour of arriving in hospital with the symptoms of sepsis. Depending on how unwell you are, you may need to be treated in the intensive care unit, require ventilation and need to have surgery.
Sepsis can lead to very serious injuries, such as amputations, as well as death, if not treated promptly. Death or serious injury are more likely if:
- your doctors do not recognise that you have sepsis, or think you have something else, meaning that they do not provide the right treatment;
- you are diagnosed with sepsis but not quickly enough, leading to a delay in being treated;
- you are diagnosed promptly but then the doctors delay treating you; or
- you are given the wrong or insufficient treatment.
What is a clinical negligence claim?
There are specific legal tests that need to be satisfied to make a clinical negligence claim but, in simple terms, your solicitor will investigate: (1) whether your care should have been different, and (2) whether, with different care, your outcome would have been better. They will usually seek independent evidence from a medical expert to help answer these questions. Every medical claim is different and so the answers will depend on your specific circumstances.
If your claim is successful, your solicitor will seek financial compensation for you. The principle behind this is to compensate you for your pain and suffering, and for the financial losses that have resulted from the injury. For example, if you have had an amputation that should have been avoided, you might make a claim for the costs of the treatment and care that you need as a result. You might no longer be able to work and therefore wish to claim for your lost earnings. You may need special equipment or adaptations to your home and want to claim the costs of these.
Nothing can ever truly compensate for the loss of a loved one, but you may be able to make a claim for pain and suffering on behalf of a family member who has sadly died. In some circumstances, you can also claim on your own behalf, if, for example, you were dependent on their income before they passed away.
Again, every claim is different and so what you can seek to claim will depend on your specific circumstances.