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Artist Struck Blind by Meningitis Wins Damages

A budding artist who was struck blind after a GP diagnosed a potentially fatal case of bacterial meningitis as a respiratory tract infection has won the right to a substantial settlement in compensation after the High Court upheld her clinical negligence claim.

The woman had attended her local surgery having suffered headaches, rashes on her body and stiffness in her neck for several days. The GP who examined her had sent her home untreated after advising her to take bed rest and plenty of fluids.

Within hours she had collapsed at home and fallen into a coma. She was rushed to hospital but treatment with antibiotics came too late to save her from total blindness, partial deafness, facial palsy and mobility difficulties. Despite those disabilities, she has managed to obtain a first class Arts degree and has forged a successful career as a glass designer, relying on her sense of touch alone.

In upholding the woman's claim, the Court found that, when she visited the surgery, she had presented with classic signs of meningitis. The GP had failed to examine her properly and the diagnosis of a respiratory infection 'was one which no reasonably competent GP could have made'.

The Court concluded, "A reasonably competent GP would have diagnosed, or had a high suspicion, that she was suffering bacterial meningitis and would, accordingly, have treated her with both penicillin and urgent referral to hospital. These findings lead to the regrettable but inevitable conclusion that the GP was negligent...and thus in breach of the duty of care that she owed to her patient."

The woman's claim had been valued at over £1 million but the amount of her damages was agreed confidentially between the parties in the light of the Court's ruling.

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