A final, historic decision-vindication for a series of errors and omissions of a Greek public hospital. One more claim case of medical negligence which with thorough medical documentation and combative legal support brings satisfactory results, even if it took 10 years. The amount relates to moral damage, loss of income, costs of hospitalization but also to interest which due to the long period of time, is a very important part of the total compensation.
The case refers to the journalist Angela Hadjidimitriou who since 2006 remains permanently in bed because of the Locked-in syndrome, namely the condition of a person who has a conscience, but is "locked" in a paralyzed body.
Vindication came with the decision of the Council of State who upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals which had granted the amount of 1.6 million € as compensation. For 10 years, since the age of 41 years, the journalist Angela Hadjidimitriou, mother of two children, lives in a state of permanent immobility due to the Locked-in syndrome, which is caused by the "violent repression" of a private guard of the Public Power Company (DEH), the negligence of the doctors of the Chios General Hospital and the delay the transportation by helicopter to a hospital in Athens.
The reporter on the morning of 8 April 2006 went to report, on behalf of the local television station PATRIDA, the fire that had occurred at the factory of PPC in Chios.
She had hung around her neck the camcorder and the camera. However, a guard of a private company, employed by PPC, having argued with her, in an effort to prevent her entry in the premises, pulled the strap of the camera and immediately the journalist felt severe pain in the lateral left part of the neck. As described characteristically, "it was like something breaking my neck", followed by dizziness and headache.
She left the place of reportage feeling dizzy and went to the hospital's emergencies. There she was examined by a doctor who saw no obvious signs of injury (scratches, swelling etc.) and prescribed x-ray control. From the x-rays and clinical examination no disturbing findings were revealed and the doctor indicated to wear a collar. When she returned home, however, the situation worsened. Her tongue started feeling numb, could not speak nor see, she vomited and lost contact with the environment.
The relatives immediately transferred her back to the hospital. The journalist was now in a state of confusion, she spoke slowly and without proper articulation, could not stand erect, her head was turning to the right and she trembled.
Doctors attributed that to hysteria or neurotic status, which, as mentioned, would stop over the next few days. She was transferred to the surgical clinic of the hospital, after doctors disputed regarding which clinic had to be hospitalized. At the same time her husband phoned to the radiologist of the hospital to do CT scan brain, as another doctor of the hospital had asked.
Meanwhile, the Director of the Anesthetics Department, given the diagnosis of hysteria (psychological shock), granted her injectable tranquilizer. When the radiologist arrived for the CT, it seemed that the diagnosis of hysteria did not render the CT directly necessary.
Eventually, doctors decided to reconsider and subsequently agreed on the necessity of CT. However, at noon of the same day the journalist began vomiting again, while she couldn't focus her gaze and made jerky movements with the left hand and leg.
Doctors changed approach and decided to seek help from the neurologist, but then he was not on duty. Thus they began an attempt to locate the neurologist. Eventually he came in the afternoon, after the journalist had suffered paralysis on the right side, did not have full mobility on the left side, her look was not focused, her level of consciousness (somnolence) was dropping, could not speak and did not have full mental clarity. The neurologist diagnosed cerebrovascular episode, probably of the ischemic type, while the CT scan which was eventually made did not show any bleeding lesion. He recommended anticoagulation and immediate transportation to a specialist centre of Athens.
The transportation was delayed as there was no available helicopter of the air force, and was eventually held the next day, at noon. Mrs. Hadjidimitriou was hospitalized at Gennimatas hospital and underwent tests which showed "ischemic acute damage in the left half of the bridge, separating the right vertebral artery and Basilar Artery obstruction by clot from separating right vertebral artery".
From this point on begins an endless drama and tragic suffering both for herself and for her family. She remained helpless at the hospital for 247 days (until 12.12.2006). And this because she had suffered "ischemic injury in the left half of the bridge, quadriplegia, bilateral pyramidal subscription trend in withdrawal painful stimuli, anarthria (impotence articulation of words due to paralysis of muscles), inability to swallow, emotional incontinence, osteopoiiseis (create bone protrusions in the joints that do not allow mobility)".
Still, she had a catheter, while she had full conscience and completely understood everything. " All these symptoms constitute the Locked-in syndrome. Following the exit from the "Gennimatas Hospital" she was accompanied by a doctor to arrive in Stockholm by plane and was hospitalized at Danderyds hospital "for almost a full year" (until 6.12.2007) without any substantial improvement in her health. After the last unsuccessful effort to improve her condition, the journalist returned to her home on the island of Chios, where she is under constant medical supervision, while periodically hospitalized in the Hospital of the island.
Shocking is the description made in the relevant reports on the health status of the journalist and the way she lives permanently now since 2006. As mentioned, since then she is fed through a gastrostomy, breathes through a tracheotomy, while she has no control of sphincters, aphonia and the only drives that she is able to do is the opening and closing of the right eyelid and the eye. With her environment she communicates waving the eyelid. Move upwards means no and down means yes. She has consciousness and emotional instability, while she expresses herself through intense crying.
The clinical picture of Mrs Hadjidimitriou, as described in the reports, indicates the Locked-in syndrome. Essentially this is a person with a conscience, locked in a paralyzed body. In these cases the patient needs a large number of medical support measures to prevent pulmonary complications, which is the commonest cause of death. Also it requires measures to prevent urinary tract infections, measures to prevent pressure ulcers and to avoid creating clots due to immobility. Still, they need daily physiotherapy and speech therapy.
For the unfortunate incident in October 2006 Sworn depositions were requested by all doctors who were involved in the accident of the unfortunate journalist. All renounced their responsibilities. The conclusions of the relevant official reports include, among other things, that "when later the patient was examined by a specialist and neurologist he came at the diagnosis of a stroke, possibly of the ischemic type, an ischemic injury had already been installed due to occlusion of the Basilar artery", while a few lines further down it states: "the patient's case did not obtain proper treatment at the General Hospital of Chios".
The Administrative Inquiry recorded the gaps in the actions of the doctors of the hospital and noted that most of the omissions of the physicians of the Hospital of Chios burdened the status of the journalist. Also the delay in the transportation to Athens due to an available helicopter of the air force deteriorated the situation. It also recorded that the delay in the examination of the patient by a qualified neurologist was one of the reasons for the negative course of her health. The husband of Mrs. Hadjidimitriou, as a supporter of the legal claim, appealed to the administrative courts against Chios General Hospital, claiming a compensation of € 4 million. Specifically, it called for € 3 million as indemnification due to moral harm suffered and € 1 million for the triggered disability which will have an influence on her future life (Professional, social, economic, etc.).
Both the Administrative Court and the Transitional Administrative court of Appeals of Mytilene have vindicated the journalist and awarded €500,000 for each of the claims which along with the legitimate interest reached €1.6 million. The administrative judges held that the hospital's doctors did not assess with due diligence the clinical picture of the journalist, despite the fact that she had obvious symptoms of stroke and that resulted in an incorrect medical diagnosis (hysterical shock).
She was given a calming treatment and that action resulted in lost time, while due to misdiagnosis and omissions a large idle period lapsed, until the granting of an anti-coagulation therapy. In that way irreversible effects were made. If there weren't all these omissions, the judges noted, and doctors demanded an immediate evacuation, despite the delayed availability of the helicopter, there would have been enough time to become arterial Thrombolysis in Athens. Chios General Hospital appealed to the Council of State.
The Supreme Court, however, with the No. 476/2016 decision rejected the hospital's application as inadmissible and ordered court costs €460. The criminal courts acquitted doctors and the guard was sentenced to 12 months for heavy non-intended bodily harm.