A family in England is looking at a possible torts case with a rare piece of evidence. The family of quadriplegic Jamie Merrett, 37, was already concerned about what they viewed as shoddy nursing care from staff supplied by the NHS Wiltshire Primary Care Trust. To satisfy their concerns, they set up a camera shortly before an incident that left Merrett severely brain damaged. To their shock, the footage showed nurse Violeta Aylward turning off the ventilator system.
Merritt had been paralysed from the neck down following a car accident in 2002, but was able to talk, use a wheelchair, and operate a voice-activated computer. However, he now experienced, due to lack of oxygen, brain damage leaving him with a greatly reduced ability to converse and function.
The video showed Aylward fiddling with the ventilator and then shutting it off — causing an alarm to sound. She is reportedly shown panicking as she tried to turn it back on without success. She also allegedly could not properly operate resuscitation equipment. It took 21 minutes for paramedics to arrive and turn the machine back on.
There is clearly a valid negligence claim here. I am also interested in the design of a machine that appears so easy to turn off but so difficult to turn back on.
The family says that the incident has left Merrett with the brain of a child, incapable of in-depth conversations. Previously, he had written to the Trust complaining about the poor care in the weeks leading up to the incident.