Coming out of hospital with an injured finger could earn you £75,000. The NHS may have to cough up £9 billion in lawsuits. Is compensation culture killing our health service?
For Dr Spencer at his Norfolk surgery, the whoops-a-daisy moment came when he dosed a woman with bismuth. Startled by her dyspeptic response, and eager to reassure her increasingly agitated husband, he swallowed a spoonful of the stuff himself. “See? Perfectly safe!”
Two things then happened: Dr Spencer vomited, fell down and lay writhing on the floor. His patient died.
The explanation was simple. As the doctor explained to the coroner, bismuth and strychnine look remarkably similar in the bottle and, well, mistakes do happen. At the subsequent trial for manslaughter, Mr Justice Willes agreed. A simple blunder, he said, was not in itself a criminal act. To secure a conviction, the crown would have to prove that the doctor’s medicines were in such chaotic disorder that it was impossible for him to know which was which. Not guilty, said the jury.
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