In February 2011, Jack Adcock, aged 6 years old, died as result of a cardiac arrest which was triggered by sepsis, secondary to a bacterial infection, at Leicester Royal infirmary.
Jack, who had Down’s Syndrome and a heart condition, had earlier been admitted with vomiting and diarrhoea.
Sepsis, colloquially known as “blood poisoning”, must be treated as a matter of urgency in human beings. It is a life threatening condition, caused by an overwhelming immune response to infection by the body, that can lead to multiple organ failure and cardiac arrest if left untreated.
When Jack’s body was shutting down due to the sepsis, the doctor in charge of his care mistook him for another patient who had a ‘do not resuscitate’ order. By the time the error was realised by a junior doctor, Jack’s condition had deteriorated to the extent that it was past the point of no return.
One of the doctors in charge of his care, and a nurse, have been found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. Such a verdict is extremely rare because of the high burden of proof involved.
The case of R v Adomako outlined the test which involves the following criteria:
a) the existence of a duty of care to the deceased;
b) a breach of that duty of care which;
c) causes (or significantly contributes) to the death of the victim; and
d) the breach should be characterised as gross negligence, and therefore a crime.
A University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust spokesperson, Andrew Furlong, stated that since Jack’s death, improvements had been made to the hospital’s working practices.
Moosa-Duke Solicitors hopes that these improvements ensure that gross negligence, as seen in Jack’s case, can be avoided in the future.