Prescribed morphine overdose leads to £25,000 medical negligence claim

21 May 2021

Mrs S approached Co-op Legal Services after suffering from a prolonged overdose of prescribed medication. Our medical negligence solicitors helped her to recover £25,000 in compensation.

Client situation

Mrs S had suffered from chronic pain following breast cancer. She had been prescribed Oramorph (a liquid form of morphine) for the pain since 2013. In July 2016, her dentist advised that she should change to sugar free Oramorph. This recommendation was sent to her GP.

Her GP made a mistake when prescribing the sugar free Oramorph by not realising that this was 10 times stronger than the original Oramorph.

As a result, Mrs S was prescribed 6-8 times the usual and recommended dose of Oramorph. The error went unnoticed until January 2017 when a pharmacist spotted this.

During the prolonged period of overdose, Mrs S suffered with unpleasant side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, reduced attention and reduced concentration. She was often sent home from work as she was not considered to be safe to be there.

She became socially isolated and required help from her partner and children for household and gardening tasks. Her ability to take care of herself was also impaired. She became aware of slow shallow breathing, and sustained several falls due to her poor balance, along with frequent mouth ulcers.

Once the mistake had been noticed, Mrs S had to slowly withdraw from the Oramorph over the course of the next 18 months. During this time, she suffered significant disabling side effects, attributable to withdrawal symptoms. These included:

• Increased levels of pain and anxiety • Irritable cold sweats and jerky movements • Mouth ulcers • Tiredness • Diarrhoea and abdominal cramps • Hallucinations • Panic and confusion

As a result of these symptoms, Mrs S had to take frequent time off work and her ability to drive was impaired, as well as her ability to carry out domestic tasks. This had a significant impact on her self-esteem and her self-trust.

How we helped

Mrs S approached Co-op Legal Services in 2017. Co-op Legal Services provided Mrs S with an initial assessment of her claim and entered into a no win no fee agreement with her.

Co-op Legal Services wrote to the GP’s legal representative, inviting them to admit liability for Mrs S’s claim. The hospital’s legal representative admitted liability but did not admit the extent of the injury and suffering experienced by Mrs S.

To prove the extent of Mrs S’s injury and suffering, our medical negligence solicitors:

• Obtained copies of Mrs S’s medical records • Prepared witness statements for Mrs S, her family and her line manager • Obtained an expert report from a Pain Management Consultant • Obtained a report from a General Practitioner expert • Obtained a report from a Consultant Psychologist expert • Made a part 36 offer of £40,000 to the hospital’s legal representative

The outcome

During the course of the claim, the hospital’s legal representative made 3 offers to settle the claim. Initially for £7,500, then for £12,500 and then £20,000.

Co-op Legal Services, having carefully gathered the necessary evidence to value the claim, advised Mrs S not to accept these offers and ultimately advised Mrs S to make a counter-offer of £25,000. The counter-offer was made and this was accepted by the hospital’s legal representative.

This negligence had prolonged what was already a difficult and emotional time for Mrs S and her family. With the assistance of Co-op Legal Services, a fair and appropriate conclusion was reached.

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