Persistent Vegetative State Coma Compensation Claims

Persistent Vegetative State Coma Compensation Claims

The firm recently recovered £715,000 for the widow of a man (Mr A) who remained in a persistent vegetative state for almost 2 years, after he suffered a severe brain injury. He was only 46 when he underwent surgery to remove a tumour in his chest.

Mr A was on long term warfarin and had regular blood tests. Pre-operatively he had abnormal blood clotting results that were not acted upon. This put him at increased risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Surgery should have been delayed to check whether blood clotting had returned to safe limits or needed medical correction.

During surgery a drain was placed incorrectly in the chest cavity. In addition, only one drain, and of a small size, was used. The drain was insufficient to protect Mr A from his increased risk of bleeding. Blood loss at surgery was more than should normally be expected, yet a larger drain and more than one drain were not placed.

Post-operatively, signs of internal bleeding in his chest were not spotted by nurses and doctors observing him on a ward despite his complaints of feeling something was not right. This led to him suffering from a condition called cardiac tamponade (pressure on his heart), causing a heart attack and severe brain damage. he had to be rushed back to surgery in the early hours to remove a large amount of accumulated blood in his chest. He did not recover full consciousness after this further surgery. He remained in a type of coma for nearly 2 years until he passed away as a result of the negligence.

In the 23 month period before Mr A’s death he was minimally aware but in a ‘persistent vegetative state’ (PVS).  His family reported that he was able to sense their presence when in the room. He could appear distressed at times, showing pain responses, but could be soothed by reassurance and comfort from his family and friends. However, he could not communicate normally. When the family announced significant life events to Mr A tears would pour down his face though he was not capable of any significant movement.

The case highlights the difficulty faced when the injured party isn’t conscious and an assumption has to be made about the extent of their actual pain and suffering.

What is PVS?

A Persistent Vegetative State is one of 3 broad terms used when describing a persistently unconscious patient.  There are three main categories of unconscious state:

1) Coma

When in a coma, the body isn’t aware of anything going on in the surroundings. Even the body’s reflexes can shut down resulting in a completely unresponsive patient.

2) Persistent vegetative state

The “middle state” is the persistently vegetative state (PVS). Unlike a coma, a patient in a PVS state still has some degree of reflex action and show minimal responses to outside stimuli. a patient in a PVS state may still require pain medication as it is still uncertain whether those suffering from PVS do experience pain.

3) Minimally conscious state

Although still unconscious, an individual in a minimally conscious state can show some small signs of being able to respond to stimuli. This can range from turning a head in the direction of sound to low audible, grunts or auditory responses.

When determining the level of damages awarded to a patient who has been placed in an unconscious state as a result of negligence, careful consideration has to be taken to ensure the correct category of awareness is used.

The value of Mr A’s injury was eventually agreed at £150,000, purely for the pain and suffering experienced by this gentleman in the 23 months he remained in his near PVS state before he passed away.

On top of this figure, the widow also received compensation for other heads of loss, the more important ones being the value of bedside care provided by various members of the family, an award to compensate for loss of their loved one, a statutory bereavement award for his widow and compensation to her for the loss of income which would have been provided by Mr A in the future has he recovered from his surgery and gone back to work.

If you have been affected by anything described above, or if you think you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence, please call one of our friendly team on 0114 250 7100 and we will be more than happy to discuss your case with you.