Doctors Failure to Recognise Infection Causes Life-long Impairment to 1 Year Old Baby

Nov 15, 2023 | Publication

The plaintiff, by their next friend sued the Child and Adolescent Health Services in relation to injuries suffered while a patient at Princess Margaret Hospital in 2005. The plaintiff, only a mere 16 months at the time, was being treated for superficial and partial thickness burns to approximately 18% of her total body surface area. The burns were caused by an unfortunate accident involving hot water. As a consequence of the burns, the plaintiff developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (“ARDS”). The ARDS, which is an inflammatory lung injury, caused the 16-month-old to suffer cardiac arrest, multi-organ failure, brain damage and cerebral palsy. The plaintiff claimed that the injuries were caused by the negligence of the doctors in the burns ward who were responsible for the care of the plaintiff.

At first instance, the learned trial judge found in favour of the plaintiff. The defendants appealed. The Hospital relied on grounds of appeal that fall under two broad issues. The first was over a finding of fact on the first instance. That finding related to the finding that development of ADRS was due to Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) in the presence of sepsis. The plaintiff argued if sepsis was present, it could have been treated by the Hospital with antibiotics, potentially avoiding the development of ADRS. The opposing argument, however, was that if sepsis was not present and the ARDS was developed due to the burns alone, then it was out of the control of the hospital as antibiotics would have made no difference. The second issue related to whether the hospital in fact breached their duty of care, which resulted in careful consideration of the application of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (WA). Ultimately, the appeal was unanimously dismissed, with the Court finding the grounds of appeal had no merits.

The decision of Child and Adolescent Health Service v Sunday John Mabior by next friend Mary Kelei WASCA 151 can be read in full here <http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/wa/WASCA/2019/151.html.>.

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