According to the UK Sepsis Trust, the disease of sepsis kills around 52,000 people here in the UK every year. Despite a death rate that dwarfs that of many well-known cancers combined, such as bowel and prostate, it’s a fair bet that most people have either not heard of sepsis, or if they have, they don’t actually know what it is.
Those that are a little more clued up on what Sepsis is, may nevertheless still be puzzled by the fact that sepsis and medical negligence compensation claims are so frequently mentioned in the same breath. Why is that, or to put it another way: how can getting sepsis lead to a medical negligence claim?
First of all, we need to look in brief at what sepsis is.
What Sepsis is and the reasons you might get it – in bullet points
- Sepsis is a disease that is caused by infection.
- It can be life-threatening. When the body gets the early warning signs that it is about to be attacked by an infection it releases chemicals into the bloodstream. It does this to fight off the infection.
- If the body’s response to infection is out of kilter, then the changes that occur can cause serious damage to vital organs within the body. The blood flow to the affected organs is impaired.
- Poor blood flow leads to organs being deprived of oxygen and other nutrients, which in turn leads to organ failure.
- If sepsis is left untreated or is not treated properly, the result may be that the condition progresses to septic shock.
- Whilst mild sepsis usually leads to complete recovery, septic shock can cause death.
- It affects young and old, men and women
What are the symptoms of Sepsis?
- Early indicators of sepsis do not greatly differ from those of most kinds of infection (which is why the danger signs can be easily missed, even by health professionals).
- High temperature (may or may not be present)
- Feeling of being unusually cold
- Rapid breathing
- Fast heartbeat
- Children under 5 years of age with early sepsis can take on an overly pale complexion, mottled skin or blue lips; be very lethargic; develop a rash that doesn’t fade when pressed and may have fits or convulsions. They will not necessarily suffer from all of these symptoms.
What are the early signs of Septic Shock?
These symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Sickness and nausea
- Severe muscular pain
- Not urinating as frequently as normal
- Cold, clammy or ashen or mottled complexion
- Slurring of speech
- Becoming confused or disorientated diarrhoea
Once again, the symptoms of septic shock, like the early signs of sepsis could, at first sight, be easily confused with those of a myriad of other illnesses that are often much less serious than septic shock.
How do you get Sepsis infection?
Those most at risk are:
- Newborn babies (under 1 year)
- Pregnant women
- The elderly (over 75s)
- People whose immune systems have been weakened – those who have -rheumatic diseases, HIV, been having chemotherapy or have had organ transplants
- Diabetes sufferers
- People who’ve had a major operation
- Those requiring a lengthy hospital stay
- People who suffer from poor nutrition
- Being exposed to tubes – breathing tubes or catheters. (Risk of infection being introduced by the tube).
What are the complications caused by septic shock?
Septic shock can cause multiple complications, including:
- Heart failure
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Kidney failure
- Respiratory failure
- Liver failure
- Removal of a section of bowel
The severity of these complications will depend on factors that include:
- The patients’ age,
- Any pre-existing health conditions,
- The cause and origin of sepsis within the body
- How soon treatment was given.
The diagnosis and treatment of Sepsis
The NHS has published guidelines around the treatment and management of sepsis. These are known as the ‘sepsis six’:
- Taking blood cultures – to discover what bacteria is causing the sepsis
- Taking a blood sample – to determine how severe the case is
- Monitoring your urine output – to assess severity and kidney function
- Administering antibiotics
- Providing fluid intravenously
- Giving oxygen
This course of action should be administered within an hour of sepsis being diagnosed.
What happens if you get sepsis?
When cases of sepsis are caught and treated properly and promptly, most people make a full recovery.
Some survivors of sepsis go on to experience post sepsis syndrome which can have physical and/or psychological symptoms.
If not treated quickly or effectively, and septic shock sets in, the consequences include:
- multiple organ failure,
- long term disability,
- amputation of limbs
How does a medical negligence claim arise after getting Sepsis?
The key to a successful outcome after getting sepsis is the speed of diagnosis and treatment being started as a matter of urgency. Thereafter the continued correct treatment of sepsis is equally vital to ensure that the patient makes a full recovery.
However, any failure throughout the diagnosis and treatment process, such as;
- Failure of GP or nurse to refer a patient showing symptoms of sepsis to a hospital for further tests and treatment
- Failure to diagnose sepsis
- Misdiagnosis of sepsis
- Delay in diagnosis of sepsis
- Delays or failure to carry out tests
- Failure to, or delays in, carrying out IV antibiotic treatment
- Delays in referring a patient to a consultant or more senior doctor,
that leads to a patient suffering physical or mental damage, would constitute medical negligence and could lead to a sepsis medical negligence compensation claim being made.
Against whom would the medical negligence claim be brought?
The claim would be made against the healthcare professional (e.g. GP), or healthcare organisation (NHS or private hospital) that was in breach of its duty of care to the person who suffered from sepsis negligence.
What can I claim for in a Sepsis Negligence claim?
A person who has suffered personal injury – pain, suffering and loss of amenity – as a result of sepsis medical negligence, is entitled to compensation. The amount of compensation for pain and suffering will depend on the precise nature and the severity of the injury incurred.
Other elements of compensation will include loss of earnings and possible loss of future earnings. There might be a claim for the cost of care and/or rehabilitation.
Sepsis compensation claims
A successful claim for sepsis medical negligence compensation is dependent on you making the right choice of solicitor to act for you. Mooneerams solicitors of Cardiff work in conjunction with a specialist team of sepsis compensation solicitors who have considerable experience of pursuing sepsis negligence claims.
Will I be able to pursue a No Win, No Fee Sepsis Negligence Claim?
Yes. No Win No Fee arrangements are possible for sepsis claims, subject to the solicitor believing that your claim has reasonable prospects of success. We and our trusted clinical negligence partners are able to offer to act for clients by using conditional fee arrangements (CFAs). CFAs are more commonly known as No Win, No Fee agreements.
For the avoidance of doubt, CFAs make it a lot easier for clients to pursue legal claims because if a client using a CFA arrangement loses their claim, nothing is payable and if they win, then a fee will only be payable at the end of the claim, once compensation has been recovered. In addition, the maximum amount of legal fee will be capped at a pre-agreed percentage of your compensation.
What should I do now?
Contact Mooneerams on 029 2048 3615 or send us a message via our website
With your permission, we will ask the specialist sepsis medical negligence solicitor to contact you, to arrange a free telephone consultation with you. We will only pass your details on to the solicitor, with your express permission.
Carl Waring is an experienced solicitor who qualified in 1987. He has written extensively on the personal injury ‘reforms’ that have taken place since 2010. He is a freelance legal content writer and the Head of Business Development at Mooneerams, Solicitors.