A five-year-old boy was knocked down by a bicycle and suffered a swollen left eye and a deep cut below it. At the local A & E department it was not possible to perform ophthalmoscopy due to the child's upset condition. The examining doctor suggested that the child should be taken to his GP in a few days.
The child's GP (MDU member) examined the eye the next day when he diagnosed subconjunctival haemorrhage and infection and prescribed chloromycetin. Two days later the child saw another GP (member of another defence organisation) who confirmed the diagnosis.
About a month later the was seen by a third GP who diagnosed conjunctivitis and prescribed chloromycetin eye drops. Two days later the child saw the first GP who noted heterochromic changes in the left eye. He asked the parents to bring the child back the next day for refraction.
In the event the child was taken to a specialist eye hospital where a dense, organised, vitreous haemorrhage and an extensive retinal detachment were diagnosed. Despite two operations the child lost the sight in this eye.
Negligence was alleged against the hospital doctor and the first two GPs. The case against the GPs was that their failure to take a proper history, to examine the child adequately, or to refer him to an ophthalmologist had resulted in the child losing the sight in his left eye.
Experts were instructed on the member's behalf. They agreed that while they could sympathise with the difficulties involved in examining the eye of a five-year-old, it would be difficult to defend the case on these grounds. Further, all three defendants had failed to refer the child for a full ophthalmic assessment.
The case was settled out of court for £25,000, this was split equally between the MDU, another defence organisation and Health Authority.
This page was correct at publication on 01/01/2002. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.