NHS Payout – Patient Awake in Theatre

A female nurse from Burnley has won damages after waking from a general anaesthetic in theatre.

She has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of regaining consciousness – with her eyes taped shut and tubes down her throat – as hospital staff prepared to operate.

What Happened?

Alexandra Bythell was scheduled to have her appendix removed in September 2010.

Mrs Bythell recalls receiving a general anaesthetic on the day of the surgery, but then reports waking up in the operating theatre moments before her surgery began.

Due to the paralysing effect of the anaesthetic, Mrs Bythell was unable to call out. She then remembers hearing a request for morphine to be administered, at which point she fell asleep.

Hospital Apology

Following a critical incident report, Burnley General Hospital has admitted human error – the investigation found that the vaporiser responsible for regulating the anaesthetic was empty.

Mrs Bythell received a letter of apology from the anaesthetist. The NHS Trust as also admitted that Mrs Bythell had experienced “anaesthetic awareness”.

Sarah Sharples, Mrs Bythell’s lawyer, commented:

“What happened to Alexandra is totally unacceptable. She woke up paralysed, thinking
that she was actually in theatre and thinking that she was about to die.

She was left distraught over what had happened and why she had
effectively woken up. The experience has had a massive
affect on Alexandra psychologically.

It is crucial that the NHS Trust learns from this mistake and ensures that it
cannot happen again. This was not a faulty machine. This was a simple
avoidable human error and it is crucial that systems
are introduced to stop this happening again.”

If you have been affected by medical negligence, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors Medical Negligence Team today on 0151 242 1025 or email

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