A tragic blunder at the world-renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children led to Maisha Najeeb having her brain injected with glue. She was ten years old at the time of the operation in June 2010. Now 13, she has been awarded a record £24 million ($4.6million) in damages, the monies intended to pay for round the clock care and support for the rest of her life.
It is the highest ever medical negligence award in British legal history and this level of compensation is commensurate with the catastrophic damage that was done to her brain.
Maisha suffered from a very rare illness where the veins and the arteries are entangled together. Arterio-Venous Malformation (AVM) only presents in around 1 percent of people and becomes serious if bleeds occur. Apart from that danger though, Maisha was able to lead a perfectly normal life with the condition. She went in to Great Ormond Street because she had had a bleed that needed to be embolized. She had been through five previous embolizations.
The embolization procedure is relatively straightforward. The embolic agent is the glue that stops the bleeding. This is injected and the vessel is blocked. Meanwhile, a dye is used to keep a check on the rest of the blood flow.
During the operation there were two lots of syringes to be used on her blood vessels. One batch contained the harmless contrast dye that was intended to monitor the flow of the blood around her brain. The other set of syringes contained the glue, which was powerful enough to block bleeds that may occur from any of the vessels.
By the simple fact that neither set of syringes was labeled, they were mixed up. The consequence was that the glue was used in place of the dye and this caused devastating and incurable brain damage to the little girl. It was a tragic mistake.
From outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Maisha’s father, Sadir Hussain said that, “Her life is ruined” and that, “All her dreams have been broken.” His only hope is that something like this will never happen again and lessons will be learned from the case. He said he was grateful that her care needs into the future would be met.
Solicitor Edwina Rawson, who represented Maisha, said to the court that what was most heartbreaking about the case was that “the injury was so avoidable.” All it would have taken was for the syringes to be correctly marked.
Speaking on behalf of the Great Ormond Street for Children Hospital Trust, Neil Block QC lamented that “money can’t restore what Maisha has lost,” but he felt sure that it was a great burden off the family’s shoulders to know that they now had enough in the settlement to care for her needs. He admitted the “shortcomings” in the case and said that the consequences had been “tragic and devastating.”
Block went on to pay tribute to Maisha’s family, who had all demonstrated “unstinting, dedicated and devoted care,” for the way they had engaged with the Trust and allowed the staff at the hospital to learn from what had happened to Maisha. This would allow for future improvements, he said.
Despite her rare condition, Maisha was otherwise a healthy child when she went into the hospital for her procedure. She is now confined to a wheelchair, having lost almost all cognitive and bodily function and apparently suffers from very painful spasms. Judge William Birtles approved the record payout in recognition that Maisha will need non-stop care for her lifetime. She will receive £383,000 every year until her eighteenth birthday, after which time the award will be increased by another £40,000. The amount was based on an estimation of her living until the age of 64.
Although the case was down to go to trial next month, it was in fact settled without a trial with Great Ormond Street admitting negligence.
It is a record compensation payoff; but as everyone involved in the case acknowledges, it compensates for an oversight that was completely avoidable. If Maisha had had her brain injected with harmless dye instead of glue she would still be a healthy child today.
By Kate Henderson