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Settlement for family of Coventry mother fatally injured during surgery

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Settlement secured after hospital accepts responsibility for wife’s death

Andrew O’Hara had been happily married to his wife Deborah (‘Deb’) since 1993 when she unexpectedly passed away following surgery at University Hospital of Coventry on 12 July 2015. Deb was 45 years old at the time of her death and was a loving mother to their two teenage daughters and her young son.

Deb had been admitted to University Hospital of Coventry two days earlier for an operation to remove a tumour from her kidney. The surgery was performed by Mr Blacker, a consultant urologist, and following the procedure he informed Andrew that there had been complications but that his wife would be fine.

However, the next morning Deb’s condition began to deteriorate and by the afternoon she had to be rushed back to theatre by a number of surgeons of different specialities to try and find out the cause of her poor condition. It was identified during surgery that there was no blood supply to Deb’s vital organs and nothing could be done to save her. She passed away just after midnight.

Andrew was unaware of the circumstances that had caused his wife’s death and following a meeting with the Trust responsible for University Hospital of Coventry he was given a letter containing medical jargon which he did not understand. Andrew was then contacted by a reporter who had been informed about the circumstances of Deb’s death and felt that this may have been caused by medical negligence.

Andrew instructed Access Legal Solicitors to investigate the circumstances surrounding Deb’s death in September 2015. Rebecca Sellers and Phil Barnes, specialists in medical negligence, acted on his behalf. The first issue they dealt with was the Coroner’s decision not to hold an Inquest.

Discussions were held with the Coroner’s office for over a year and eventually the Coroner agreed to hold a two day Inquest. Phil Barnes represented Andrew and his family at the Inquest which took place at Coventry Magistrates Court in December 2016, during which time the Coroner heard evidence from Andrew, the pathologist and nine clinicians from University Hospital of Coventry.

As a result of the evidence the Coroner heard, the cause of Deb’s death was amended on her death certificate to include the injury which she had suffered: her main arteries had been clamped cutting off the blood supply to her vital organs.

Whilst preparing for the Inquest, independent expert medical was obtained and discussions were had with the solicitors acting for the hospital. Three weeks before the Inquest was due to take place the hospital accepted liability for causing Deb’s death during the surgery.

Following the Inquest additional independent medical expert evidence was obtained to establish what would have happened, on the balance of probabilities, had the blood supply to Deb’s vital organs not been cut off.

Negotiations took place with the hospital’s solicitors and a six figure settlement was agreed in August 2017. The settlement included a provision for Andrew and their three children including their son who was still under the age of 18 at the time the settlement was agreed. Given his age, this component of the settlement for Andrew’s son was approved by the court at an ‘infant approval hearing’.

Whilst no amount of money could compensate for the loss of a wife and mother, the compensation has enabled Andrew to reimburse family who helped pay towards Deb’s funeral and provided significant amounts of childcare whilst Andrew had to work to sustain his family.

It has also enabled Andrew’s children to obtain treatment to help them come to terms with what happened to their mother, and for Andrew’s son to have assistance in attaining an apprenticeship once he finishes school.

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