Compensation can sometimes be claimed for the toxic effects of lithium when the medication causes kidney damage Medical Negligence.
Do contact our friendly team of specialist lawyers at Medical Solicitors. We conduct most of our Clinical and Medical Negligence claims under ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreements, also known as Conditional Fee Agreements. So, you do not have to worry about how you are going to afford to bring a lithium toxicity compensation claim. You have nothing to lose in speaking to us.
About Lithium prescribing
Lithium is a well-established choice of medication for depression and other mental health conditions. Lithium is a natural salt that helps to produce energy and stabilises the brain cells. This medication works for people with depression because it improves brain function. However, it should be taken long term, for around 10 to 20 years. Therefore, being prescribed lithium for many years is not negligent medically. Substandard care arises when lithium starts to affect kidney function and this is not picked up
If you are taking lithium you should have blood tests around every 3 months to check lithium levels and the function of your organs. It is rare for lithium to cause a decline in kidney function, but it is possible. If your kidney function falls below 45% you should be referred to a kidney specialist (called a ‘nephrologist’).
The level of lithium in your body is measured by taking blood. It should be in what is called the “Therapeutic Range”. This is between 0.5-1.1. If your lithium levels are above 1, you should be referred to a kidney specialist to further assess the health of your kidneys.
The effect of Lithium poisoning
Lithium poisoning (called ‘Lithium toxicity’) can be fatal and can cause brain and other neurological injuries. Having too much lithium in your system can lead to dehydration. This is why it is very important to keep having regular blood tests.
‘Nephrogenic diabetes‘ can be caused by lithium. This is a condition in which the kidneys lose the ability to retain water. This can lead to more frequent visits to the toilet to pass urine. It can also cause discomfort and dehydration.
Other conditions affecting kidney function
There are other factors that can cause decline in kidney function. If you already have chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or heart problems, then lithium may not be the only cause. To win a clinical negligence case we must show that lithium caused the decline in kidney function. This is most likely when the decline happens over a short period of time and at a fast rate. For example, a rapid decline within a year. If your kidney function is declining more slowly, then this is more likely related to other health conditions.
Even with other relevant health conditions, lithium can add to the decline. This means you are more vulnerable to this problem. Your healthcare providers should be even more careful in monitoring you. If your kidney function declines below 45% with signs of lithium toxicity you should still be referred to a nephrologist.
What should be done about Lithium toxicity?
If you have been referred, your lithium prescription should be reviewed. It should probably also be reduced. Clearly, there should be a discussion between your GP, psychiatrist, and nephrologist. They should agree upon the best cause of action, as stopping lithium abruptly could cause serious mental health problems. There has to be a risk and benefit analysis and you should usually be involved in that decision-making process. You may need extra help and support for your mental health condition if you have to reduce your medication to protect yourself from lithium toxicity.
Should I bring a claim for lithium toxicity compensation?
If you feel the following apply to you, then it is worth speaking to us about a compensation claim for the toxic effects of lithium on your kidneys. As you will see from the true case examples, at the end of this page, the consequences can be devastating at times.
- Have you had a decline in kidney function over a fairly rapid time (up to about a year)?
- Have you been prescribed lithium during that time?
- Were you not getting regular blood tests?
- The blood tests not being properly reviewed by those looking after you?
- You were not referred quickly to a nephrologist?
- Have you suffered harm as a result?
Examples of Past Claims
£2.4M in compensation
For a gentleman who was irreversibly brain injured and confined to a wheelchair. This was due to the negligent failures by both his GP and a Hospital Trust to act upon signs of lithium toxicity.
£20,000 in compensation
For a man whose kidney function declined, but his prescription of lithium was not altered until a year and a half later. By this time he had contracted nephrogenic diabetes and his chronic kidney disease has gone to stage IV. The claimant already had chronic kidney disease and other health conditions that were contributing to his declining kidney function. However, his kidney function declined rapidly in a short space of time and his lithium level was at 1.1.
Thankfully, when the lithium was stopped, his kidney function did not decline any further and improved slightly. Therefore, he did not need dialysis. His claim was limited to the pain and suffering for the 18-month period where his kidney function carried on declining as a result of his medication staying the same.
- £15,000 in compensation
For the estate of a woman in her 80s with bipolar who suffered a lithium overdose after her GP practice continued to prescribe the drug despite the absence of the results of blood testing to monitor her lithium blood levels. She suffered three falls, neurological dysfunction, hair loss, and a general decline in health. Unfortunately, she died before the claim settled but her family made the claim on behalf of her estate. Read the full case study here.
Please Note: Medical Solicitors specialise in handling lithium toxicity claims involving healthcare providers in England and Wales and will be happy to extend a helping hand if your case is located in either of these regions. Unfortunately, we do not handle lithium toxicity cases outside of England and Wales.