Mrs Bell was injured following a routine MRI scan in 2009. The MRI scan required a liquid to be inserted into her vein through a hollow needle or cannula. However, the radiographer who carried out the procedure failed to notice she had in error inserted the cannula into the brachial artery.
While it was not negligent for the radiographer to puncture an artery, it is negligent to fail to recognise this has been done and treat it accordingly. Puncture of a major artery if untreated can interrupt blood flow and cause very serious injury to the effected limb. This was exactly what happened to Mrs Bell's arm after she was discharged home without treatment and her arm is now painful and has only limited function. Therefore, the case essentially boiled down to the issue of whether there was a spurt of blood on removal of the cannula, as a spurt would have been indicative of an arterial puncture, which should have alerted the radiographer to the need for further treatment.
Only the pursuer and the radiographer were present when the blood spurt occurred so the Judge had to weigh up the evidence and decide who to believe. If he accepted the radiographer the pursuer got nothing. If he accepted there was a spurt of blood suggesting a punctured artery she got £700,000. This process required an 8 day hearing.
There were various pieces of evidence which the Judge held to be in the pursuer's favour including:
- He found the radiographer who carried out the procedure to be dogmatic. Whilst it was accepted by the court that she was an accomplished, highly qualified radiographer, she failed to accept she had made a mistake, thereby contradicting the evidence of the medical experts and an admission made on her behalf that the artery had in fact been punctured.
- He found Mrs Bell to be credible and reliable commenting that she appeared to be "genuinely trying her best to give truthful and accurate evidence". He considered her evidence that there had been a spurt of blood which landed on her trousers causing the radiographer to comment "I'm getting better at this" to be "clear and cogent".
- The Judge also considered Mrs Bell's husband to be a credible witness and accepted his evidence that the pursuer's jeans had been blood stained when she got into his car following the procedure.
- A written hospital admission note by a junior doctor recorded Mrs Bell's account of the cannula removal as "+++ bleeding on removal".
- The pursuer's two main medical expert witnesses considered her to be consistent and credible in her account of the incident throughout various discussions with her in the years following the incident.
The defenders contended that there were also pieces of evidence which were alleged to be potentially unfavourable to the pursuer but weighing up all the evidence the Judge correctly found in Mrs Bell's favour and considered that on the balance of probabilities there was a spurt of blood which was ignored by the radiographer.
This case highlights the importance of carefully considering all the different elements of evidence which may be relevant in trying to establish a case. Ultimately, however, the credibility and reliability of Mrs Bell was of paramount importance.