A grieving husband has condemned a doctor at a rural hospital after he cancelled tests which could have saved his dying wife, because the referral unit was too far away.
Grandmother-of-three Patricia Anne Porter, 67, died after being rushed to her local A&E department with severe breathing difficulties just nine days after being released from hospital. But despite showing symptoms of a blood clot, known as a pulmonary embolism, she was sent home after a senior doctor overruled a colleague’s recommendation to send her for a CT scan.
Now, her husband Ronald Porter, 69, has hit out at Dr Leo Murray’s decision to cancel his wife’s CT scan, despite admitting he would have sent her if the referral hospital had been closer.
Ronald, from Kirkton, Balmacara, said, “Anne had been very unwell and was really struggling to breathe even when doing very minor activity so we knew there was something wrong. We were obviously very worried but relieved when the first doctor we saw said she wanted to send Anne for further tests so when Dr Murray decided to send her home instead I was aghast.
“She couldn’t even walk out of the hospital without being in great distress and needing assistance but Dr Murray didn’t seem to be bothered by this and maintained he was doing the right thing. What really shocked me was when he told me he would have sent her for the scan if Raigmore Hospital had been nearer; it was only 90 miles away but too far to go to save a woman’s life.”
Mrs Porter was rushed to Mackinnon Memorial Hospital, Isle of Skye on 19th July 2011 after suffering severe shortness of breath and breathing difficulties at her home. She was examined by one of the hospital’s rural practitioners Dr Jacqueline Bennebroek who carried out tests which showed her condition could be the result of a pulmonary embolism.
Mrs Porter was given a blood thinner before the Dr Bennebroek suggested she should be transferred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for further testing to rule out a pulmonary embolism. Later that day Dr Leo Murray took over her treatment and stated he believed the patient was suffering with an episode of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Dr Murray told Mrs Porter that he saw no evidence of a pulmonary embolism and discharged her on July 21st, despite her husband’s pleas that her condition needed further investigation.
Mr Porter said, “I was stunned when Dr Murray discharged her as she was clearly extremely ill and in no state to go home but when I questioned his decision he very arrogantly dismissed me. He maintained that his discharge was appropriate as he believe it was her COPD flaring up but said to come back if thing got any worse. Anne couldn’t even leave the hospital without help; it was a disgrace to discharge her.”
Mother-of-two Mrs Porter died on 30th July 2011, just nine days after she was released from hospital, after becoming very dizzy and breathless at home before collapsing in her front room. Her husband, a qualified first aider, tried desperately to resuscitate her while he waited for the paramedics to arrive but was unable to revive her.
He said, “Anne was still not feeling well and I was going to take her back to the hospital. She told me she was feeling dizzy and then she collapsed. I dialled 999 and gave her CPR but I was unable to save her.
“My family has been left devastated by Anne’s untimely death and what has made this whole ordeal even worse has been the knowledge that is was entirely avoidable. We had received the correct diagnosis from another doctor when we originally attended the hospital and for this to be overturned despite our pleas is simply unforgiveable. I don’t understand why this doctor cancelled the scan that could have saved her life simply because the hospital was 90 miles away. It is a disgrace and a decision which meant I had to watch my beloved wife die in my arms.”
Retired Civil Servant Mr Porter has now been awarded a six-figure out-of-court settlement from the Highland Health Board, which did not admit liability, after instructing law firm Slater and Gordon.
He added, “For me this was never about the money, I just wanted to hold those responsible to account and I hope that the tragedy that we have suffered never happens to anyone else.”
Slater and Gordon Associate Solicitor Karyn McPhee, representing the family, said “it was a fundamental and inexcusable error that cost Mrs Porter her life. This was a fundamental error that ended in tragedy and clearly could have been avoided if Dr Murray had acted appropriately. His colleague had initially made all the correct diagnosis so it is simply inexcusable that he overruled this when the evidence available to him indicated Mrs Porter needed further examination.”
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