Woman died after contracting Hepatitis C from blood transfusion

North Devon Magistrates Court, Barnstaple North Devon Magistrates Court, Barnstaple

Friday, April 11, 2014
12:48 PM

Coroner rules the act which was designed to save 67-year-old Barnstaple woman’s life ended in her death 30 years later.

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A BLOOD transfusion given to a Barnstaple woman to save her was ‘the act which ended her life’ after she contracted Hepatitis C, a coroner has ruled.

Wendy Huxtable, 67, of Green Bank Road, died on May 29, 2013 from end stage liver failure caused by the virus 30 years after she contracted it.

The inquest heard the mother-of-two was given six pints of blood during emergency surgery after she suffered a miscarriage with her third child in August 1983.

After the operation she discovered she had contracted Hepatitis C but did not display any symptoms for much of her life until April 2013 when she ‘began to go downhill’.

During March and April last year she became ‘quite confused’ and on May 29 she was admitted to North Devon District Hospital where she later died.

A statement from Dr Patricia Hewitt, a consultant for the National Blood and Transplant Service, said the virus was only discovered in 1987.

“During the second half of 1989 and the 1990s screening was brought into use prior to use in blood transfusion,” she said.

“Before that time, there were no tests available which could detect Hepatitis C.”

A donor notice from 1985 stated those donating blood should say if they had ‘suffered jaundice or Hepatitis, or been in contact with Hepatitis, in the last six months’.

However, as Hepatitis C often has no symptoms and was not at that time recognised, it was likely many blood donors did not realise they were infected at the time.

Paying tribute to Mrs Huxtable in a statement read at the inquest, her husband Gordon Huxtable said she had been his carer after he suffered a heart attack.

“We were married in 1969 and lived in Barnstaple,” he said.

“My wife was fit and mobile; she was the life and soul of the party. She often helped at the community centre with the majorettes.”

Mr Huxtable said the couple fostered children – often up to five at a time – and his wife would look after them as he travelled a lot during the week.

Deputy coroner John Tomalin said he felt the correct verdict to deliver in this case was one of misadventure.

He said: “I cannot see what else the doctors could have done in 1983 to save her life.

“What they did, I believe, was in good faith and to the best of their knowledge and understanding at the time.

“It wasn’t known that the blood was infected with Hepatitis C – the act that was designed to help save her life unwittingly, unexpectedly and unintentionally ended her life.”

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