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Hospital to Blame for Grandmother's Flesh-Eating Bug Death

A grandmother of six who died at Christmas time in 2010 as a result of contracting a flesh-eating bug would have survived if medical staff had done their job properly, a judge has ruled. The decision entitles her widower to substantial compensation from the NHS.

The 60-year-old woman had fallen on her snow-covered driveway and grazed her arm. At the time of her fall, she was taking three different immuno-suppressant drugs to combat rheumatic arthritis, which meant that she was particularly vulnerable to infection.

Four days later, she attended the Accident and Emergency Department of her local hospital in excruciating pain. Her upper limbs were swollen and discoloured and she had weeping blisters on one of her arms. Initially, the only treatment she received was in the form of painkilling drugs and the application of gauzes to the suppurating blisters. Several hours had passed before the possibility that she had sepsis was considered, but by that time it was too late. By the time her condition was diagnosed and the correct treatment had commenced, the necrotising fasciitis had spread up her arms and into her chest. She died not long afterwards.

In finding the NHS fully liable for the tragedy, the judge noted that the treatment given to the woman was inappropriate in the circumstances. The only thing that would have saved her was the swift amputation of both her arms. "A greater sense of urgency was clearly required," he said. The amount of the widower's award was left over for agreement or assessment on another day.

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