To achieve just compensation, medical accident victims must prove not only that negligence occurred but also that their injuries were caused by it. In one case, expert legal representation overcame both of those hurdles to secure six-figure damages for a man whose wife died from an untreated pulmonary embolism (PE).
The woman had attended her GP's surgery complaining of breathlessness and chest pain. She had suffered a PE some years earlier, but the doctor diagnosed muscular strain and advised her to take painkillers. The following day, she collapsed at home after a massive PE triggered heart failure. Although an ambulance arrived swiftly, she could not be resuscitated.
After her widower launched proceedings, the GP admitted that he had breached his duty of care by failing to refer her to hospital after seeing her at the surgery. However, he denied that an earlier hospital admission would have made any difference to the tragic outcome. That argument was rejected by a judge, who awarded the widower £260,000 in damages.
In rejecting the GP's challenge to that outcome, the Court of Appeal noted that death is the highly likely result of an undiagnosed and untreated PE. Statistical and expert evidence clearly indicated that if the GP had referred the woman to hospital straight away, the likelihood was that she would have survived.