A couple who watched their seven-year-old daughter die is suing a hospital trust for more than £200,000.
Panicked teachers called Mark and Lynette Polmear, 42, about their daughter Esmee struggling to breathe in July 2015.
The couple rushed to her school and Mark, 49, tried to give her mouth-to-mouth, but he was unable to save her.
Esmee died of what the family later found out was pulmonary veno-occlusive disease, which creates intensely high pressure in the lungs. The condition is so rare that it only affects one in 10million people.
The schoolgirl suffered from episodes of breathing difficulties and vomiting, but medics did not identify her condition when she was treated and tested at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in January 2015.
Now, Mark and Lynette are suing the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust as ‘secondary victims’ because of the effect watching their daughter die has had on them.
London’s High Court heard that ‘as a result of witnessing the collapse, unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate and death of Esmee each [parent] has suffered psychiatric injury’.
Both of them are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression.
In 2018, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust admitted that her condition should have been diagnosed by mid-January 2015, Judge David Cook told the court last week.
The trust accepted that ‘more should have been done to pursue a diagnosis’, and that had she been referred to a cardiology or respiratory specialist, she may have received the treatment she needed.
Mark and Lynette have also issued claims for damages on behalf of Esmee, but their case is thought to be a test to see how the courts respond to the concept of ‘secondary victims’.
Their lawyer, Henry Pitchers, said: ‘There are other cases waiting in the wings where the NHS are taking a similarly tough line on psychiatric injuries by secondary victims – loved ones of the primary victim of clinical negligence.’
Lawyers for the trust argued that the ‘negligence’ in failing to diagnose the little girl happened too long before her death and is therefore a separate event.
They wanted Judge Cook to strike out the couple’s claim for damages but he refused.
He said: ‘The event would have been horrifying to any close family member who witnessed it, and especially to the parents.
‘In the circumstances the question is why should the fact that Esmee had suffered a non fatal episode on previous occasions rule out the secondary victim claims of her parents?
‘It seems to me that her final episode can appropriately be described as a fact and consequence of the negligence.’
The couple will now be able to continue with their case.
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