HSE and GP issue apology to man who settles case for €850k for wife’s death
A High Court action has been settled for €850k where a man sued a GP and the HSE following the death of his wife just one day after a blood test showed she had high levels of potassium in November 2011. It was revealed to the court that the deceased, who was in her 50’s should have been sent straight to hospital upon the discovery of low levels of potassium in her system. Counsel for the lady’s widower stated that the low levels of potassium in the system, were a ‘recipe for disaster.’
It was claimed that the deceased had a few days previous to her death, attended her GP complaining of palpitations. A blood test was taken and then sent to Cork University Hospital for analysis. Three days later the results came back to the GP’s surgery indicating severe hypokalaemia (the condition associated with low levels of potassium).
During the hearing, it was claimed that the GP failed to refer the lady to the hospital immediately on learning of her condition and there was a failure on the part of the HSE to adequately communicate the importance of the abnormal blood test results and have the appropriate systems in place to deal with such a matter.
It was also stated that the HSE appointed a clerical officer to relay that the test results needed urgent clinical attention. An unreserved apology from the GP and the HSE was issued in a letter read to the court stating:
“I deeply regret the tragic circumstances that led to the death of your wife, mother and sister. I apologise unreservedly for the part I played in the events leading up to her death. I am acutely conscious of the pain and suffering which this has caused to you all.”
Counsel for the family of the deceased said there should have been a ‘bulletproof means of communication from the HSE to the GP directly and not just to the surgery itself.” The court was informed that liability in this case had been admitted in the last few weeks and the judge approved the settlement for €850,000 to the husband of the deceased.
As mentioned, hypokalaemia is a low level of potassium in the blood serum. Early signs of the condition can include:
- Paralysis (possibly in the lungs)
- Dysrhytmia (abnormal heart rhythms, particularly in people with heart conditions)
- Weakness or muscle spasms
- Rhabdomyolysis (muscle weakening/deteriorating)
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- Mayo Clinic – 11 Jan 2018 – Symptoms Low potassium (hypokalemia)
- Irish Times – 5 Jun 2018 – GP and HSE apologise for part played in lead up to death of Cork mother of four
- The Examiner – 5 Jun 2018 – Cork man who sued GP and HSE following sudden death of his wife settles action