Australian Nurses on Trial Over Death of Patient, Charged With Negligence

by Medindia Content Team on  April 10, 2008 at 1:01 PM Medico Legal News
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Australian Nurses on Trial Over Death of Patient, Charged With Negligence
TWO nurses in Queensland, Australia are on trial, charged with causing the death of a patient admitted for back problem.

Michael George Gibbons, 51, and Jennifer Annique Valentine, 48, are charged with allowing the patient's blood oxygen saturation to drop to levels which were 'incompatible with life.'

Crown prosecutor David Meredith told the Brisbane Supreme Court that the pair failed in their duty of care on April 23, 2005, by not calling for backup in time to save the life of Christopher Hammett and should be convicted of criminal negligence.

The 41-year-old Hammett was recovering from a surgery for his back problem.

Meredith said experts would testify that healthy people typically had oxygen saturation levels of about 99-100 per cent while patients coming out of operations could go as low as 93 per cent without causing alarm.

Hammett's fell to 85 per cent and below that midnight. But the nurses did not follow the prescribed hospital procedure by calling in the doctor, ambulance or nearby larger hospitals which had emergency or intensive care units.

The jury was shown medical charts with hourly checks allegedly done by Ms Valentine, listing Hammett's oxygen saturation levels as going down to 60 per cent by 1am, but still no calls were made.

Meredith said instead Gibbons went on a break about 1am, not returning until Ms Valentine asked him for help when Hammett's level had dropped to 53 per cent after 2am.

Meredith said by then the patient  was comatose and his oxygen levels were 'past the point of no return'.

Widow Lyn Hammett gave evidence saying her husband was a 'fitness fanatic' and 'didn't stop from the moment he got up to late at night,' detailing his career as a hockey player and coach, elite golf instructor and head of the sport department at Robina High School.

She said his back had been causing him some 'annoying pain,' so the father of three decided to have surgery to return to his full form.

Mrs Hammett, also a nurse, said she left the hospital about 9.15pm after seeing her husband who seemed to be resting comfortably, after being given morphine. She phoned from home to check again, and was told by a female nurse that Hammett was sleeping.

She detailed how she was then woken by a phone call from a male nurse at 3.08am, telling her that Hammett had deteriorated and was being transferred to the emergency department at the Gold Coast Hospital across the street.

Shortly after arriving there, she was told her husband had died.

But the nurses denied any wrong doing or negligence.

The trial continues.

Source: Medindia

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