UK Government Nurse Caught on Camera Disconnecting Man’s Ventilator

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A nurse employed by the government-run health care system in the UK was caught on camera turning off a ventilator that was keeping a young quadriplegic patient alive, leaving the man permanently brain damaged.

According to The Telegraph, the family of 37 year-old Jamie Merrett, who was left paralyzed after a 2002 car accident, had just installed a bedside camera in his room because of concerns about the poor care he was receiving by nurses provded by the NHS (National Health Service).

Only days after the device was turned on, Violeta Aylward, 55, an agency nurse working for the NHS was caught on camera fiddling with the ventilator machine until it turned off. While the machine emits a high pitched warning sign, Aylward is seen panicking as she tries to figure out how to restart the machine.

Meanwhile, Merrett is left fighting for his life.

It took 21 minutes for paramedics to arrive on the scene and restart the ventilator, but by then, it was too late. Merrett suffered serious brain damage which left him with the mental capacity of a child. Before the incident, he was able to talk, use a wheelchair and operate a computer using voice-activated technology.

“His life is completely change. He doesn[‘t have a life now,” his sister, Karren Reynolds, said on the BBC’s Inside Out program. “He has an existence, but it’s nowhere near what it was before. He is very brain damaged compared to what he was before.”

Reynolds said her brother had become increasingly worried about the care he was receiving at the hands of NHS nurses, particularly in regard to alleged errors they made in the operation of his ventilator.  Merrett wrote to the NHS about his concerns but nothing was done.

A confidential report by the agency, which was leaked to the press, shows that they were fully aware that Merrett’s nurses were required to be trained in the use of a ventilator. The report also admits that they do not have adequate systems in place to check on the training of their staff.

“In my experience, this is the worst case of negligence,” Seamus Edney, Merrett’s lawyer, told the Telegraph. “No one has come forward to make any admission, so now almost two years after the event we are trying to get someone to admit liability for what has happened.”

Thus far, the NHS has issued a statement confirming that they have investigated the incident.

“We have apologised to the patient and his family for this, and have put in place a series of actions to ensure that such an event will not occur again either for this patient or others.”

Because legal action is now pending, they refused to comment further.

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