Charlie’s story – anaphylactic reaction following general anaesthetic

3 minute read

Enable Law settled a claim for Charlie’s family after he sadly lost his life due to an anaphylactic reaction to general anaesthetic.


Charlie underwent a routine, elective examination and biopsy of the back of his nose to investigate breathing issues in his sleep. It was meant to be an easy procedure but needed to be done under general anaesthetic.

The anaesthetist, shortly after administering the drug, noticed Charlie’s blood pressure dropping and gave him metaraminol, a drug used to treat low blood pressure (otherwise called hypotension). After taking the metaraminol, Charlie’s blood pressure increased gradually but shortly after dropped again and stayed low despite the anaesthetist giving him more of the blood pressure medication. At this stage neither the anaesthetist or surgeon found this worrying and took Charlie to the operating theatre. Whilst in theatre, the Charlie’s hypotension continued. He went into cardiac arrest, could not be resuscitated and he died.

Charlie was in his early seventies and otherwise in perfect health. He had been very active and led a full social life that included many friends and activities. He left behind him his inconsolable wife and 2 adult children.

As the death was both unexpected and took place in a hospital setting an inquest was ordered by the hospital and the coroner concluded that the cause of death was anaphylactic shock possibly triggered by the anaesthetic. During the inquest, an anaesthetist that had provided the same anaesthetic to Charlie few years back for another procedure that took place in the same hospital was asked to testify. That doctor confirmed that Charlie experienced hypotension that time too but had responded positively to metaraminol and another drug administered to treat it. That adverse reaction had been recorded in Charlie’s records.


Charlie’s widow came to Enable Law to get support with the inquest and decided to bring a claim following it. The trust had refused to accept liability for having breached their duty of care towards Charlie and for being responsible for him passing away even though the reason of death looked to be linked to the anaesthesia.

Justin Goodman, Legal Director, took on the case and gained access to Charlie’s medical records. Straight away he spotted several inconsistencies in the sequence of events recorded at the operating theatre, the report of the investigation the trust had done internally and the information that had been verbally presented at the inquest. He also commissioned a report from an expert anaesthetist who confirmed that standard procedure had not been followed and the fact that Charlie’s blood pressure dropped straight after the administration of the anaesthetic and did not recover after being given metaraminol should have alerted his anaesthetist that it could be an anaphylactic reaction – a recognised medical emergency requiring immediate treatment. Had Charlie been treated with adrenaline, the likelihood is that he would still be alive.


The case took nearly 4 years to settle as the trust kept arguing against causation but eventually, we managed to agree to a settlement alongside the issuing of a formal apology to the family. That apology meant to the family much more than the compensation did as it helped them start on their journey of getting closure.

Losing a loved one is not something that can ever be rectified but Justin and the team helped Charlie’s widow and children get answers and closure We were able to reach a settlement to enable the family to move onto the next stage of their lives, whilst never forgetting of course, Charlie.

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