A woman who vomited faecal matter for days before she eventually died was failed by her surgeon, who missed several major signs her health was deteriorating, a judge has found.
Colleen Stefanyszyn, 61, died in September 2008 after a hysterectomy performed at Newcastle Private Hospital by Dr Oliver Brown.
This week, NSW Supreme Court Justice Monika Schmidt found that her death was preventable, awarding her family a $1.6 million settlement.
Stefanyszyn died after suture material was accidentally looped around her bowel during her hysterectomy surgery performed by Dr Brown.
Shortly after the surgery, she began vomiting faecal matter, a sure sign something had gone seriously wrong.
“That was the worst red flag a surgeon would see,” the court heard.
But Dr Brown failed to order further tests because he was “fixated” on a diagnosis of “postoperative ileus”, a normal delay in digestive function after surgery.
He ordered Stefanyszyn be nil by mouth for 24 hours but despite this, she continued vomiting faecal matter, something he ignored.
Her vital signs then began declining, with hospital staff recording an elevated pulse rate, a drop in blood pressure and a dangerously low blood oxygen level of 73 per cent. Despite this, they and Dr Brown failed to act to save her life.
Eventually, at 5am on December 6, 2008, Stefanyszyn went into cardiac arrest and died.
Justice Schmidt found that Dr Brown was 80 per cent responsible for Stefanyszyn’s death, while the hospital deserved 20 per cent of the blame.
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