Victim of medical blunders wins £2.5m

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A boy aged 15 was awarded medical negligence damages of more than a million pounds yesterday – for the second time.

After a medical odyssey which has led from tragedy to cure to tragedy again, John Price, the son of a sergeant in the US Air Force formerly based at Lakenheath, Suffolk, was awarded £2.5m in a High Court settlement against Norwich health authority for injuries he suffered shortly after his birth in 1986.

Six years ago, he won a £1.3m settlement against Pittsburgh Hospital in the United States for negligent treatment which left his lower body paralysed when he was two,.

As well as experiencing the worst effects of medical incompetence and bungling, John has benefited from the best that medicine has to offer. In June 1991, he had a successful liver and bowel transplant at Pittsburgh hospital.

James Badenoch QC, representing John at yesterday's hearing, told the court: "It is an irony that John is probably among the most successful – if not the most successful – case of liver transplant there is. He is still alive and needs only a low dose of drugs to combat rejection."

The medical saga began at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in Norwich when John was born in 1986. His intestines were protruding through a defect in his abdominal wall, but instead of referring him to a specialist children's hospital, the surgeon in charge decided to cut them away.

He mistakenly thought the intestines were dead or dying because of their purplish colour. In fact they were healthy and of a normal colour.

The decision to remove the protruding gut meant John was hospitalised for four years and fed by tubes into his veins. The experience robbed him of his childhood and the opportunity to develop intellectually, as well as leaving him in poor health. As a result of the vein-feeding, John's liver failed and by 1990 his life was "hanging by a thread".

Then his luck turned. His family had moved from Attleborough in Norfolk to the United States where he came under the pioneering transplant programme at Pittsburgh. A donor was found and he underwent a successful liver and bowel transplant in November 1990.

But then tragedy struck for a second time. In June 1991, he was readmitted to hospital in America with a possible infection and a negligently- performed lumbar puncture – the insertion of a needle into the spinal canal – left him partially paralysed. That resulted in the £1.3m pay out by Pittsburgh Hospital in 1995.

John's gut problems have left him psychologically incapable of taking food by mouth and he is now fed overnight by a tube into his stomach. He will never be employable because of the danger of infection and he has borderline mental retardation. He is cared for by his parents, William and Catherine, at their home in Van Buren, Missouri.

But, despite suffering from depression, John remains cheerful and "poignantly forgiving of his doctors", according to his solicitor, Simon John. The boy had told doctors it was his mother's belief that God put him on the earth for a purpose but, he "sure hadn't figured it out yet". Mr John said: "This is the culmination of an almost unbelievably tragic series of events ... Today's settlement finally brings justice to the family for all they have been through."

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