Sepsis and Medical Negligence Claims*


Sepsis and Medical Negligence Claims


Our medical negligence solicitors often get queries in relation to sepsis and medical negligence claims*. Sepsis is a serious life-threatening condition. In Ireland approximately 16,000 people are diagnosed with sepsis every year. While the survival rate is improving, approximately 18% of people diagnosed with sepsis still succumb to the infection. If you or a loved one has contracted sepsis and you believe it was as a result of medical negligence, it is important that you understand your legal options. This is something that one of our expert medical negligence solicitors will happily assist you with.


What is sepsis?


Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by your body’s response to an infection. Our immune system protects us from illnesses and infections, sepsis occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages is own tissues. When the infection fighting process turns on the body this can cause organs to function poorly or abnormally. Sepsis develops when the chemicals in the immune system released into the bloodstream to fight infections causes inflammation throughout the entire body instead. Severe cases of sepsis can lead to septic shock. This is a medical emergency that can cause a drop in blood pressure that can lead to severe organ failure and indeed death.


What are the symptoms of sepsis?


There are three stages to sepsis—

  1. Sepsis
  2. Severe sepsis
  3. Septic shock


Like many medical conditions the earlier your condition is treated the greater your chances of survival. The main symptoms of sepsis are–

  1. Feeling generally very unwell.
  2. Difficulty urinating, having not urinated in 24 hours in adults or older children, or in the last 12 hours in babies or young children.
  3. Very high or low temperatures.
  4. Extreme shivering or muscle pain.
  5. Swelling, redness, pain around a cut or wound.
  6. Slurred speech or confusion.


Sepsis is much more prevalent in patients aged over 65, or under 1 years of age. It is also more common in patients who are pregnant or who have chronic health conditions. As well as being much more common, it is a much more serious condition for people in these categories.


When is sepsis the result of medical negligence?


Patients developing sepsis is quite common in hospitals and medical facilities. The mere development of sepsis does not in and of itself constitute medical negligence. However, if a medical practitioner fails in their duty of care to a patient, or fails to adhere to certain hygiene standards, which increases the risk of sepsis dramatically, that patient may well have a medical negligence claim.


Patients may contract sepsis due to poor sterilization of medical instruments, lack of hygiene – such as failure to regularly wash hands or replace surgical gloves, failure to provide proper room treatment, failure to monitor and regularly replace medical instruments such as cannulas, or by placing patients in close proximity to other patients likely to pass on infection. If a patient contracts sepsis in any of the above ways they may potentially have a medical negligence claim and they should consult with one of our expert medical negligence solicitors.


Failure by medical practitioner to detect the onset of sepsis may also result in the patient having a claim in medical negligence. This often happens when a GP or a healthcare worker in A&E fails to spot the signs of sepsis and make a correct diagnosis. Given the importance of early treatment and the speed at which sepsis can progress, any delay in diagnosis can make a huge difference in the manner which patient recovers or whether they recover at all.

Can I bring a medical negligence claim as a result of contracting sepsis?


In order to answer this question properly you would need to consult with one of our expert medical negligence solicitors. As a general rule, to bring a successful medical negligence claim you have to be able to prove that —

  1. That the care you received was below an acceptable standard
  2. That the negligent failure to provide this standard of care resulted in you contracting sepsis.


*In sepsis medical negligence claims, hygiene standards are generally the most important factor when there is reasonable delay in the development of symptoms. If either of these resulted in you contracting sepsis or resulted in the worsening of your condition you may have a potential medical negligence compensation claim.


How do I make a medical negligence claim?


To discuss this in greater detail you should contact one of our expert medical negligence solicitors. It is important to note that before bringing a medical negligence claim, we must first obtain an expert medical opinion from a suitable qualified medical practitioner stating that the care you received was below an appropriate standard and as such was negligent. The expert opinion will also have to prove causation, i.e., that the hospital or doctor’s negligence resulted in you either contracting sepsis, or your condition significantly worsening.


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