Claiming Compensation for a Delayed Sepsis Diagnosis

Claiming Compensation for a Delayed Sepsis Diagnosis

Sepsis is a killer that few people have heard of; however, it causes more deaths globally per year than bowel, breast, and pancreatic cancer combined and almost 25 per cent of fatalities are preventable.

What makes these statistics even more concerning is that new research from Germany suggests that the four screening tools* used worldwide to identify cases of life-threatening sepsis are flawed.

Sepsis can be successfully treated with antibiotics if it is caught early. But unfortunately, healthcare professionals can delay diagnosing sepsis. This can lead to post-sepsis syndrome and other physical and psychological complications. If this has happened to you, you may have a medical negligence claim, and if you win, you are likely to be awarded compensation.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is a potentially life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the body’s response to infection goes haywire, leading to widespread inflammation and organ dysfunction. Sepsis can develop in response to several types of infections, including bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infections.

Sepsis typically progresses as follows:

  • Infection – Sepsis usually starts with an infection somewhere in the body, such as the lungs (pneumonia), urinary tract, abdomen (e.g., from a ruptured appendix), or an open wound.
  • Immune response – In response to the infection, the body’s immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight the invading pathogens. While this is a normal and essential response, in sepsis, the immune response becomes uncontrolled and can lead to excessive inflammation.
  • Systemic inflammation – The excessive release of chemicals can trigger a widespread inflammatory response throughout the body. This can result in various symptoms, including fever, rapid heart rate and breathing, low blood pressure, and confusion.
  • Organ dysfunction – In severe cases of sepsis, the inflammation can disrupt the normal functioning of vital organs, such as the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, and others. This can lead to organ impairment or failure, which can cause death.

Severe sepsis and septic shock are advanced stages of sepsis. Severe sepsis is where the illness progresses to the point where one or more organs begin to fail. This condition requires immediate medical attention. Septic shock is the most critical stage of sepsis, characterised by extremely low blood pressure and an elevated risk of multiple organ failure.

Early recognition and prompt treatment of sepsis are crucial. Treatment typically involves antibiotics to target the underlying infection, fluids to maintain blood pressure and organ function, and sometimes other supportive therapies like vasopressors (to raise low blood pressure) or mechanical ventilation in severe cases.

Why is there sometimes a delay in diagnosing sepsis?

Delays in diagnosing sepsis can occur for assorted reasons and can have grave consequences due to the rapid progression of the condition. Some common reasons for a delayed sepsis diagnosis include:

  • In the preliminary stages, sepsis can present with symptoms that are non-specific and can resemble other less severe conditions. Symptoms include fever, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, confusion, and weakness.
  • Sepsis is a complicated condition, and not all healthcare providers may be fully aware of the latest guidelines and criteria for diagnosing sepsis. This lack of awareness can result in missed opportunities for early intervention.
  • Sepsis can affect multiple organ systems, leading to a complex and varied clinical presentation. The symptoms and signs of sepsis may overlap with those of other medical conditions, making it challenging to diagnose accurately.
  • Healthcare providers may initially underestimate the severity of the patient’s condition, especially if the patient’s vital signs are not significantly abnormal.
  • Shift changeovers, the widespread use of agency staff, and cross-departmental care can lead to communication breakdowns, which can in turn result in a patient’s sepsis not being diagnosed until it is too late.
  • If an infection lies deep within the body and/or the patient has several medical issues, sepsis can be hard to spot.
  • Sepsis can present differently in children and the elderly.
  • Staff shortages and lack of equipment can mean conditions with difficult diagnosis such as sepsis can be missed.

The issue of late diagnosis of sepsis and other conditions is so serious that the Government has backed bringing in Martha’s rule in England. It will ensure that patients and their families can get a second medical opinion if they believe their concerns are not being taken seriously by medical staff.

This follows a campaign by Martha Mill’s parents. Martha died in 2021 after developing sepsis following a fall from her bike which caused a pancreatic injury. A Coroner ruled that Martha would likely have survived if doctors had identified sepsis warning signs and transferred her to intensive care.

How can Nicholson Jones Sutton Solicitors help with a delayed diagnosis for sepsis medical negligence claim?

We have an exceptionally talented and experienced medical negligence team who can advise and represent you in making a compensation claim. This includes Elaine Meehan and Kate Barge, both of whom are duel qualified in nursing and law.

If you believe healthcare professionals delayed diagnosing your sepsis and this has led you to suffer physical and/or psychological damage, please contact us immediately. Under the Limitations Act 1980, you only have three years to make a claim for medical negligence, so time is of the essence.

Our solicitors are compassionate and caring, as well as extremely tenacious when it comes to fighting to ensure you receive rehabilitation and compensation.

Please call us on 01 625 667166 or email us today to discuss your claim.

*NEWS2 (National Early Warning Score), qSOFA (quick Sequential Organ Failure Assessment), MEWS (Modified Early Warning Score) and SIRS (Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome)


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