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Series of blunders ended in death of woman

FATHER-OF-THREE Alastair Laing, from Port Glasgow, is among the hundreds of Scots seeking compensation for medical negligence after a series of blunders led to the death of his wife four years ago.

HEARTBREAK: Alastair Laing from Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, with a photograph of his wife Judy who died in 2009. Picture: Colin Mearns
HEARTBREAK: Alastair Laing from Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, with a photograph of his wife Judy who died in 2009. Picture: Colin Mearns

Judith Laing, known to her family as Judy, was 65 when she woke with stomach pains in the early hours of a Saturday morning in December 2008.

She became violently sick, but when her husband of 45 years phoned NHS 24 he was told she should just take a paracetemol.

Over the following week as her condition deteriorated, three GPs failed to identify she was in danger. She was given tablets, misdiagnosed with stomach, kidney and urine infections and told a lump in her lower abdomen – which actually indicated the life-threatening strangulated bowel causing her symptoms – was too low down to be a hernia.

Mr Laing said: "I remember on the Monday it was a locum doctor who came round to the house and she said Judy had a stomach infection. I said to her what about this lump above Judy's groin, though – what's that?

"She just said it was a swollen gland, it was too low to be a hernia. I said 'what about all the stuff she's throwing up?'. The doctor just said 'it's the infection'."

When Judy, a school cleaning supervisor, was finally admitted to Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock on the Friday, Mr Laing said a nurse told him "nothing happens in here at the weekend".

The hernia which was cutting off the blood supply in her bowel was not picked up by a scan until the following Monday, nine days after she first became ill.

After surgery to remove part of her bowel, Mrs Laing deteriorated further. Her bowel had ruptured and was poisoning her body. A second operation failed to save her and she died in intensive care six weeks later on January 29, 2009.

A fatal accident inquiry concluded her death could have been avoided if it had not been for delays in correctly diagnosing her condition, and Mr Laing, 71, a retired pipe-fitter, is now pursuing the health board for £200,000 in compensation.

He said: "It's not about the money. It's about holding people to account and prevent the same thing happening to someone else.

"The nurses did all they could for Judy in intensive care, but it was the neglect during the first two weeks after she fell ill that killed her.

"The sheriff said if Judy had had her operation three days earlier she probably would have survived."

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