Back to News

School boy dies after misdiagnosis of meningitis

Thomas died on his thirteenth birthday after contracting meningitis while on holiday in Wales. He had been referred to the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil by an out-of-hours GP, after exhibiting six symptoms of meningitis, including, a stiff neck and headache.
A doctor and a consultant paediatrician had examined him after nurses found him to be in terrible pain, and fast-tracked him to see a doctor. However, they gave him only paracetamol. Meningitis was not diagnosed and he was not given antibiotics until over four hours after the initial examination.
The antibiotics did not help. Thomas went into a coma and was transferred to Cardiff’s University of Wales Hospital, where he died.
At the inquest, the coroner commented that the hospital’s treatment of Thomas Smith amounted to ‘gross failure’ and that the two doctors who treated him had failed in their duty of care.As a result of Thomas’s presenting with six meningitis symptoms, the coroner said that the hospital should have given Thomas antibiotics without delay as this could have significantly improved the outcome, and that this was ‘basic medical attention’.
There was no question that the risk of giving medication that was not needed outweighed the risk of bacterial meningitis.
One of the doctors who examined Thomas admitted that, with hindsight, he should have given the antibiotics sooner, but a microbiology expert also pointed out that antibiotics were not a ‘magic wand’ and that they may not have saved his life, even if they had been given at the earliest opportunity.
The health authority admitted there were failings in Thomas’s care. They issued a statement to Thomas’s parents, which said that they had fully investigated the circumstances and had made significant changes to their policies and procedures in order to avoid any similar failings happening in future.
If a doctor or hospital has failed you or a member of your family though misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment, speak to us. We are medical negligence lawyers and have been helping people with their medical negligence claims for almost 25 years.
Call 01302 320621 or email

Get in touch today