Quadriplegic Suffers Severe Brain Damage After Nurse Is Shown Turning Off Ventilator

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.

Source: Telegraph

7 thoughts on “Quadriplegic Suffers Severe Brain Damage After Nurse Is Shown Turning Off Ventilator”

  1. “You can look up the statistics yourself but the British do not have demonstrably better health care.”

    Except everyone – everyone – has health care and no one can be bankrupted for medical expenses.

  2. Isabel:

    You are right that doctors kill many more people in this country than guns but the availability of care here is much greater than in Briton. You can look up the statistics yourself but the British do not have demonstrably better health care.

  3. Byron, as soon as I read the article, I just knew someone like you would have to jump in and say “this is what happens under the NHS.”

    Guess what! In case you haven’t heard, malpractice happens in this country too and Britons on the whole have much better health care than we do. Not only that, but the rate of medical malpractice due to systems errors (a fancy name of goof ups) is increasing. For some strange reason, doctors are still taking out the wrong kidney, etc. Surgical instruments are still being left inside patients. This is happening here in America and we certainly don’t have national health care. We have a mess.

    As the article clearly states, this “nurse” made a mistake. She didn’t intentionally try to euthanize the patient as you suggest.

  4. And people wonder why there is opposition to national health care in this country?

    I bet there was an unspoken understanding to terminate patients like this due to the expense. Watch out granny, its coming to a hospital near you.

  5. The comment from anon nurse is spot on. It is the responsibility of the organization to have the proper safeguards in place that will do more than just sound an alarm. It is hard enough on the family to have their loved one suffering from spinal cord injury, but now brain damage. There are probably many other cases of similar magnitude that go unreported.

  6. My rules of practice: Protect the patient. Protect my license. (The aforementioned case was an accident waiting to happen and said accident, tragically, happened.)

    This was a multi-system failure — there are supposed to be checks and balances built into the system to prevent these kinds of mistakes. Having said this, if a nurse isn’t properly trained, but chooses to work beyond the level of her (his) training/expertise, the risks are enormous, as this incident clearly demonstrates.

    There are a couple of other related Telegraph articles:



    From one of the articles:

    “Mrs Aylward, a registered nurse since December 1st 2000, was suspended on October 28th 2009, and “remains suspended” while the Nursing and Midwifery Council looks into the case. No date has been set for a formal disciplinary hearing.”

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