Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Paediatrician and Nurse convicted of manslaughter charges

Last week saw the convictions of a doctor and nurse from Leicester Royal Infirmary following gross negligence during the care of a sick child in 2011. Another nurse was acquitted of the same charges.

Prosecutions like this, against medical practitioners are unusual as the burden of proof for criminal responsibility is very high, requiring proof beyond all reasonable doubt. Civil actions for negligence on the other hand require a lesser burden of proof to be satisfied, ‘on the balance of probabilities’.

In this case, six year old Jack Adcock’s parents took him to the hospital with severe vomiting, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties. He went on to suffer a heart attack brought on by ‘septic shock’ as a result of pneumonia and sadly died as a consequence.

The Prosecution case was that serious failings increased the risk that Jack would not survive and that had better care been provided his prospects would have been better.

Poor care highlighted at the trial include:

  • Failing to recognise on admission to hospital that Jack was seriously ill and that he should have been treated as a medical emergency rather than being categorised as a ‘low-level concern’
  • The senior doctor involved failed to give clear direction to the team or seek the involvement of a Consultant colleague.
  • Failing to pick up on crucial test results which were inconsistent with an initial diagnosis of gastroenteritis and moderate dehydration.
  • Mistaking Jack for another patient who was not for resuscitation, resulting in a failure to resuscitate him, until the mistake was pointed out by a junior doctor.

The issues considered at the trial highlight the importance in medical care of communication and teamwork and demonstrate that a failure at the beginning of a medical assessment can have devastating consequences.

The CPS’s decision to prosecute this case and the resulting convictions indicates the level of sub standard care demonstrated here. Manslaughter convictions are rare because the level of poor care must be of an extremely low standard for there to be a prospect of a successful prosecution.

If you or your family have been affected by the issues in this article, please contact a member of our Clinical Negligence Team on 0800 316 8892 who will be pleased to assist you.