In a case which will be of interest to anyone suffering the after-effects of witnessing traumatic events, a nurse is suing the NHS for £250,000 to compensate her for the psychiatric injuries she suffered on watching her pregnant sister die following an admitted hospital blunder.
The sister had been experiencing headaches, stiffness in her neck and nausea in the days before her death. She was given the all clear after a CT scan and was sent home after being reassured. However, her symptoms later worsened and, after she began to suffer fits, the scan results were reviewed and it was discovered that she had in fact suffered a brain haemorrhage.
Her condition rapidly deteriorated thereafter and her older sister, a senior nurse, was at her bedside when her life support machine was switched off a few days later. The nurse’s legal team say that all aspects of her private and professional life have since been seriously affected by the ‘sledgehammer’ blow of witnessing her sister’s final days. She was plunged into a major depressive episode and still experienced chest pains and flashbacks.
The NHS trust which manages the relevant hospital admits that errors were made and has already settled claims brought by the dead woman’s dependents. However, it denies that it is liable to compensate the nurse for her mental injuries. It argues that her sister’s death was a ‘gradual drawn out process’ and that what happened was not sufficiently ‘shocking or horrifying’ to foreseeably trigger such an extreme response. The nurse’s professional training, the trust submits, would have ‘prepared her for what she would encounter’.