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Court of appeal to rule on medical negligence case

03/01/12: A woman from Cornwall is facing a life of severe disability as a result of a tragedy which occurred during heart surgery and has renewed her fight for compensation.

Grace Mugweni who is now 28 and from Hyatt almost won the case at the High Court earlier this year when a judge ruled that the anaesthetist involved in the operation in 1993 had been negligent.
However, Grace and her family received nothing as the judge then went on to rule that the medic had not “caused” the brain damage which will blight her life forever.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the family have now gone to the Court of Appeal, to argue that the judge was wrong and that Grace ought to be compensated for her suffering and pain as well as to cover the huge costs of care that she will always need.
Grace had surgery to rectify heart defects when she was only 4 months old and it initially seemed that the bypass had gone well but then she had a major cardiac arrest immediately afterwards.

Doctors were able to restart her heart but found out later that she had sustained a tension pneumothorax as a result of the build-up of air in the lung.
Grace’s legal representatives claim that it was this which led to her being starved of oxygen and have pointed the finger at the anaesthetist, who has subsequently died.

In the earlier hearing, the judge ruled that the anaesthetist breached his duty of care by failing to see signs of the catastrophe early enough.

But in dismissing the claim, he commented that his error would only have added about 3 minutes to the time which the oxygen supply to Grace’s brain was reduced.

The series of events which had been put forward by Grace’s legal team was unlikely and the theories presented by her experts remained entirely undemonstrated and theoretical he ruled.
The judge went on to accept NHS London’s argument that even apparently simple bypass surgery carries a risk of brain damage and that it was not the anaesthetist’s error which caused Grace’s injuries.

The legal team representing Grace are hoping that the current arguments will persuade the judge to reverse the original decision and that the only reasonable conclusion based on the evidence was that negligence contributed to the resultant brain damage.

The court was told that Grace now suffers from cerebral palsy, severe epilepsy and learning difficulties; she is completely dependent on her mother in every way.

It is anticipated that the appeal will last 2 days and that judges will reserve their decision until a later date.