Widow speaks out over hospital death

A widow has spoken of her shock after her husband died suddenly in a private hospital after a routine knee operation.An inquest into the tragic death from a blood clot of north Norfolk caravan park owner Nigel Lee highlighted doctors' decisions not to use anti-clotting medication.

A widow has spoken of her shock after her husband died suddenly in a private hospital after a routine knee operation.

An inquest into the tragic death from a blood clot of north Norfolk caravan park owner Nigel Lee highlighted doctors' decisions not to use anti-clotting medication.

Afterwards his widow Cynthia said the family was considering legal action - but driven by the need to seek changes rather compensation.

“No amount of money will do what we want and bring Nigel back. It is a shock when someone who is ill dies. But when they are not, and just having a routine operation, it comes right out of the blue.


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“I know there is always a small risk when you have an operation, but we feel we should have had better care and information,” said Mrs Lee at her East Runton home.

Mr Lee had partial replacements of both knees at the Spire hospital on Watton Road, Norwich, on November 6 last year after suffering from arthritis. The following morning the 61-year-old died from deep vein thrombosis despite attempts to resuscitate him.

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An inquest heard doctors had been forced to “balance the risks” of operating without anti-clotting medication against the potential difficulties associated with the anti-coagulant treatment.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Malcolm Glasgow, who did the operation, said that despite having high blood pressure, Mr Lee was otherwise healthy and active and was considered a low risk.

The inquest heard that National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidelines recommended the use of anti-coagulants. But Mr Glasgow said these guidelines had been challenged by experts, including himself, adding: “The case for their use has not been proven and there are dangers associated with them.”

They could cause excessive bleeding which could contaminate the knee replacement, something which could in itself prove fatal.

The alternative was to use a “mechanical” method which involved Mr Lee being helped to become mobile as soon after surgery as possible. There was no evidence that this happened.

His views were supported by two anaesthetists including Simon Fletcher who said the case for using chemical anti-coagulants in such surgery was based on “flimsy evidence”.

Coroner William Armstrong recorded a verdict that Mr Lee died from a pulmonary thromboembolism as a consequence of deep vein thrombosis after a decision was made not to provide anti-coagulants.

After the inquest JJ De Gorter, director of clinical services for Spire Healthcare, said: “The hospital team looking after Mr Lee were saddened at his unexpected death following appropriate surgery and an uneventful post-operative recovery period. Our thoughts go out to his family at this difficult time.

“Whilst all surgery carries a degree of risk, nevertheless the hospital immediately and thoroughly investigated the events surrounding this episode, and we will now reflect on the coroner's findings to see what, if anything, can be learned to further safeguard patients undergoing this type of surgery.”

Mr Lee and his wife spent more than 20 years running the Leake caravan site at Runton which was founded by her father in 1948, but which has now been sold.

One of seven children, he had earlier fished off north Norfolk with his brother Johnno Lee, and had two children and one grandchild.

Mrs Lee said: “He was a very happy man and loved his golf. He was always trying to improve his score but his knees were very painful after each round.

Her husband chose private health care because he valued his privacy, and wanted to time operations outside the holiday season.

“He was looking forward to getting back to work. We thought he was getting the best care and support possible and now we have found there are questions over what care was provided. None of the options were explained to us so it was impossible to make an informed decision.

“We are left feeling he was let down and would like to think we can do something to prevent this happening to anybody else.”

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