Paralysed shooting victim brain-damaged by nurses’ mistake

Royal London Hospital

Royal London Hospital - Credit: Archant

A young man left paralysed after gunshots were fired in a youth centre, will receive £175,000 in NHS damages after suffering catastrophic brain damage, when a tube inserted to help him breathe was dislodged as nurses were turning him over.

Raphael Smith, 24, was paralysed when he was shot in the neck and the bullet entered his spine after a group of youths burst into the Pembury Esate community centre in Shellness Road, Lower Clapton on December 17, 2008.

A tube to help him breathe was inserted on December 20 at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, but, two days later it was dislodged “whilst he was being turned” by two nurses.

He suffered a cardiac arrest, leading to the catastrophic brain damage which left him in a persistent coma.

Judge Barry Cotter QC told London’s High Court it was “not only a very tragic case” but rather the dislodging of the tube took place in “highly unusual and tragic circumstances”.

He approved the compensation payout plus £50,000 costs.

He said Mr Smith “had presented already with the most severe of injuries” and was facing life as a quadriplegic due to the spinal injury from the gunshot.

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“He remains in a persistent vegetative state with little awareness of his condition,” he added.

Mr Smith has limited awareness of his surroundings, some vocalisation and chewing and facial movements and appears to blink when there is a loud noise.

His life expectancy has been reduced even further from where it had already fallen due to the shooting.

Andrew Post QC, for Barts and the London NHS Trust, expressed sympathy for Mr Smith and said his clients were pleased it had been possible to reach agreement without putting his mother and the rest of his family through a contested trial.

In 2009 his father, Paul Smith – who worked for Hackney Council – appealed for witnesses to come forward, saying: “Raphael was so popular with so many friends. He loved his music and was hoping to train as a plumber soon. It’s all been taken away and the whole family are devastated. At first I was relieved to hear Raphael had survived but we had no idea how badly injured he was.”