Hospital pays compensation to mum whose daughter was left severely brain damaged, and later died, following operation by struck-off surgeon
Case is one of the earliest-known cases involving Dr Nihal Weerasena at Leeds General Infirmary and occurred five years before any of the cases recently investigated
The mother of a nine-year-old girl who was left severely brain damaged, and later died, following an operation performed by Dr Nihal Weerasena, the Leeds surgeon found guilty of misconduct by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), has received £430,000 in compensation from Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, after a legal battle lasting ten years.
The operation, which eventually led to the death of Carrie Wright from Hull, took place five years before any of the seven operations that were investigated by the MPTS in January, where Dr Weerasena was found guilty of misconduct. There is no evidence that there was any investigation into Dr Weerasena’s actions in Carrie Wright’s case.
Nine-year-old Carrie underwent elective surgery for the repair of a heart defect on 24 September 2003 at Leeds General Infirmary. The surgery was performed by Dr Weerasena. The surgical notes showed that Carrie’s body was cooled and put into circulatory arrest for a total of 121 minutes. However, none of the notes, in particular the typed operation note, revealed why such a very long period of circulatory arrest occurred. At the time of the operation, periods of circulatory arrest of more than 45 minutes were regarded as unsafe and likely to result in brain injury so were to be avoided.
As a result, Carrie suffered severe brain damage (diffuse anoxic brain injury) and was unable to walk or stand unaided. She required an electric wheelchair, a specially adapted vehicle for transport, lifting or hoisting for bathing and toileting and, had very limited speech.
Carrie subsequently attended Portland College in Mansfield, a special college to assist her with independent living and spent college holidays with her mother, father, brother and sister in Hull.
Carrie sadly died on 13 December 2014, eleven years after the operation, aged 20, as a result of complications from her injuries.
Andrew Harrison, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, represented Carrie’s mother, he says: “In the absence of any explanation in Dr Weerasena’s notes, it can only be the case that he negligently failed to appreciate the risk of brain damage that the prolonged period of circulatory arrest could cause. If he had appreciated that risk, then he would have taken steps to avoid it and there were alternatives as it was not an emergency. Further, had the total period of circulatory arrest been restricted to no more than 45 minutes, it is highly likely that Carrie would not have suffered severe brain damage and would be alive today.”
Andrew Harrison also believes that the hospital did not investigate the circumstances surrounding Carrie’s operation, he says: “I inquired with the hospital about whether an investigation into what happened during Carrie’s surgery took place but was told there was no such investigation. If it is the case that none took place, it is profoundly worrying that a hospital could let such an event go unchecked, particularly given the later events that have now come to light.”
Carrie’s mother, Dawn Clayton, says: “Prior to the operation, Carrie was just like any other active nine-year old girl. She left me early on the day of the operation and came back from surgery that evening changed forever. Yet she was not deterred, she was determined to live her life, going away to college and passing her exams. We were so proud of her.
“Yet all the time when we were adjusting to a new life with Carrie and fighting to make sure she received the right care, we were also in a long, hard battle with the hospital for them to admit liability. I only received a letter of apology last year, some 13 years after the operation. I have always felt that they wanted to sweep this matter under the carpet.
“It’s been alarming for me to see the news that the same surgeon who operated on Carrie is now guilty of failings in the later cases of six other children and an adult. I can only wonder if there are other cases like Carrie’s that have gone unreported and whether closer investigation by the hospital could have prevented these later cases from happening.
“It has been horrendous for our family to lose Carrie in the way that we did, this has been exacerbated by the long battle we have had with the hospital to get recognition of their failings. The toll has been immeasurable and my heart goes out to all those who have also suffered at the hands of Dr Weerasena.”
In January 2017, Dr Weerasena was found guilty of misconduct by the MPTS after a number of failures while employed by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust between 2008 and 2012, involving six children and one adult. He has now been erased from the medical register.
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Notes for Editors
Hodge Jones and Allen
- Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice. Its managing partner is Patrick Allen.
- For almost 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.
- The firm’s team of specialists have been operating across: Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.
- In 2016 the firm launched Hearing their voices – a campaign to raise awareness and build conversations around the issues and the injustices we might all face.