Should we sue the hospitals?
December 29, 2012 4:37 PM Subscribe
My father contracted MRSA during a long stay in hospital. Is it worth investigating legal action against the hospital(s)?
posted by Diag to health & fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
About 6 months ago, my 71 year old father had a fall and broke his femur. He was taken to hospital, where they put the metal rod down the bone and screwed everything together. This all seemed to go OK, although his recovery was quite slow mainly due to some pre-existing conditions.
He has had type 1 diabetes since he was 30. Thrice-daily insulin injections for as long as I can remember. About 6 or 7 years ago, he had a heart attack and ended up having coronary bypass surgery. A couple of years later, he developed blood clots in his legs and had to have several stents put in.
He's been fairly frail since the heart surgery, and the leg artery problems basically immobilised him for about a year. But he was improving incrementally. Up until this broken femur, he had got himself to the point that he could walk unaided 1 km or so to the local shops.
OK, back to the recent stint in hospital. While he was recovering in hospital from the operation on his femur, it seems he developed and MRSA infection in the heels of both feet. They put him on heavy antibiotics (IV at first, then tablets), and kept him in hospital. The wounds in his heels were horrific.
After 3 and a half months in hospital, they sent him home. The infection still hadn't cleared up. He was in pretty bad constant pain. He needs a walking frame to get from the Jason recliner we got him to his wheelchair. It is almost impossible to get him in and out of cars since he can't bend one leg more than a few degrees.
He is on a wide array of medications. Aside from the insulin and medication he was already on to deal with his cardiovascular problems, he is also on a strong antibiotic (which actually isn't approved for use in this country yet and he can only get from the hospital who import it from the US), antidepessants, antipsychotics (prescribed off-label for nausea), opiates (lots - he is most certainly addicted).
He has had a district nurse visiting him every second day to change the dressings on his feet.
The first month or so he was home, he appeared to be slowly improving. He was able to move around a bit more quickly, although still either in a chair or on the walking frame.
But the last few weeks, the pain from the infection has gotten a lot worse. He is in constant pain. Getting from his recliner to a weelchair is agony for him. He can't get more than a couple of steps on the walking frame. He is doped to the gills on opiates (oxycodone and fentanyl patches). Spending Christmas day with him was ... terrible... to see him in so much pain.
He has another angeoplasty procedure coming up mid-January. One of the nurses that comes around recently said to my mother, quietly, that she's pretty sure they'll keep him in hospital after this procedure, since he doesn't seem to be getting any better with regards to the infection.
OK, here's my question:
Given all of the above, I am wondering whether it's worth seeking legal action against the hospital for the MRSA infection. I've done a bit of research online. There are lawyers who will assess your case at no charge and, if they think there is a case, pursue it on a "no win, no fee" basis. My father is against the idea. Well, he's apathetic to it. But fortunately my mother has taken extremely detailed notes of everything that's happened since he first went into hospital.
What I've read says he may be compensated for lost income (which is nothing since he was already retired), but also medication costs, doctor/specialist costs, my mothers time (since she is now his full-time carer), and maybe loss of "quality of life" caused by the infection (which I assume constant crippling pain and a heavy opiate dependence would probably fall into). But I'm concerned that his pre-existing diabetes and cardio conditions might be a problem.
A few articles/posts I found on the web said that people have been unsuccessful with suing for MSRA infection, but they were all in the USA. We are in Australia.
Has anyone pursued legal recourse for this kind of unfortunate situation in Australia? Was it successful?