Neglect verdict following death in hospital from clostridium difficile infection

Friday 8 June 2007

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The jury inquiring into the death of Winifred Dalton at Coventry Coroner's Court reached a verdict of natural causes in the presence of neglect. The deceased was an elderly lady who died in hospital. She had received broad- spectrum antibiotics both before and during her admission to hospital. She then began, as the jury found, to suffer from diarrhoea while in hospital. Diarrhoea is the main symptom of clostridium difficile infection, of which there is particular risk where broad- spectrum antibiotics are given and in particular with elderly patients.

The hospital had not taken stool samples to be tested for this bacteria until several days after the symptoms had been present and at which time, the deceased was in another hospital. When that hospital took a stool sample, the sample went astray and the results that the sample was positive for clostridium difficile were not acted upon for several days. Only then did the deceased receive medication to treat the infection. Her condition deteriorated and she died.

In addition to the jury finding that there had been neglect, the coroner announced that he would be reporting the matter to the hospitals concerned and to the Secretary of State in relation to matters concerning the poor quality of care that the deceased and the family had received.

Stephen Simblet Image

Stephen Simblet from Garden Court was counsel representing the family at the inquest

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