[2007] LTLPI 23.01.09  

The Claimant suffered a major depressive illness after witnessing his wife’s cardiac arrest and ultimate death consequent to an undiagnosed pulmonary embolism.

The Deceased was referred to the Defendant hospital complaining of a shortness of breath and pleuritic chest pain. Testing to exclude a pulmonary embolism was advised but she was discharged the same day without a follow-up appointment or discharge letter to her GP.

Twelve days later she was re-admitted to the Defendant hospital via A&E complaining of a shortness of breath. She was prescribed an intravenous hydrocortisone and Salbutamol and Atrovent by air but subsequently suffered a cardiac arrest. Attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful.

The Claimant alleged negligent failure to conduct investigations and diagnose Deceased’s pulmonary embolism at her first admission. He submitted that diagnosis of the pulmonary embolism would have enabled anticoagulant treatment to be commenced, which would have prevented the Deceased’s death. The Defendant admitted liability but submitted that the Claimant’s psychiatric symptoms were consistent with a normal grief reaction and were accordingly not recoverable. The Claimant’s expert stated that the circumstances surrounding the death caused the depression to be more severe and prolonged than mere grief reaction.

Out of court settlement: £37,500 for Claimant’s psychiatric claim (estimated General Damages 12,000).