Further to our own client’s stories, other cases involving the misuse of anaesthesia or anaesthetic error in Australia and the UK have affected public and professional discourse surrounding anaesthesia.
Grace Wong – Sydney
In Sydney, press reports of the tragic case of mother Grace Wong horrified the public How could this happen? Hospital blunder turns a family’s joy into heartbreak. Ms Wang went into labour with her first child in Sydney in June 2010. What should have been one of the happiest moments of Grace’s life turned into a tragedy when she was wrongly injected with 8mL of clear chlorhexidine – the skin antiseptic – instead of anaesthetic. The two fluids had been contained in separate but identical metal containers and were not checked by the anaesthetist prior to the administration of the antiseptic into the epidural space. As a result, Grace is now confined to a wheelchair, has undergone two lots of surgery to the brain, is paralysed from the waist down and suffers seizures and numbness in her hands and fingers. She will remain permanently paraplegic and will never be able to care for her son. To read more about the response of the medical indemnity insurance industry to this case, see How is Grace Going?
Angelique Sutcliffe – UK
A similar factual case of anaesthetic error that occurred in the UK led to a lengthy court battle leading to a verdict in the patient’s favour of £6 million. Angelique Sutcliffe developed chronic adhesive arachnoiditis and was paralysed for life after she was administered anaesthetic which was contaminated with chlorhexidine. The Judge at first instance found that a small splash of the antiseptic liquid contaminated the syringe prior to the epidural being administered and that the anaesthetic management amounted to a breach of the NHS’s duty of care and that the damage that resulted was caused by that breach. To read more about this case and criticism of the decision, see I attach the sting in the tail – antiseptics and the neuraxis revisited