Asthmatic left brain damaged after paramedic’s ‘negligence’
THE family of a young asthmatic Queensland woman who was left brain dead after she was given the "wrong" drug by ambulance officers after suffering an attack have won their fight in the state's highest court.
The Court of Appeal this morning ruled that the state of Queensland's ambulance service was "vicariously liable" for the negligence of ambulance officer Clinton Peters, who gave Jennifer Leanne Masson the drug salbutamol when the "clinical practice manual" clearly stated adrenaline was the preferred drug.
Masson was a 25-year-old chronic asthmatic when she had an attack on July 21, 2002, at a friend's house in Cairns.
When the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) officers arrived at the scene six minutes after a Triple-0 call, she was not breathing, her face was blue, she was flaccid and unresponsive and she was at risk of going into immediate cardiac arrest.
After ten days in intensive care in Cairns, Masson was flown to the NSW South Coast where she lived with her parents. She was chronically disabled, barely able to move and unable to feed herself, and required around-the-clock care.
She died three years ago.
In a unanimous decision Justice Philip McMurdo today ruled that QAS's negligence was to blame for her brain damage.
She ruled that Mr Peters was negligent in not giving Masson a shot of adrenaline immediately when they arrived.
Instead he gave her the "less effective drug" salbutamol.
The decision overturns the ruling by Justice James Henry that the QAS decision to use salbutamol in preference to adrenaline "was a reasonable response to the known risks".
The QAS unsuccessfully argued salbutamol was a reasonable response given Masson had a rapid heart rate and had high blood pressure.
But the Court of Appeal ruled that ambulance officers should follow the "clinical practice manual" in order to show they "exercise reasonable care" to patients, and the manual says adrenaline should be given to stop swelling of the passages that allow air to enter and leave the lungs.
In the lower court the parties had previously agreed that if QAS was liable, damages would be set at $3 million, however the Court of Appeal has asked the parties to file submissions on how much compensation was owed.