Client with ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ receives damages

24 November 2023

Clinical negligence specialist Solicitor Richard Bannister acted for a 71-year-old client in a claim arising from “broken heart syndrome”.

Our client‘s husband was in hospital during the Covid pandemic restrictions, which meant that she was unable to visit him. 

One evening, she received a telephone call from a nurse, who informed that her husband had died. This was completely unexpected, and after asking questions about her husband’s death, the nurse’s mistake became evident and she admitted she had been looking at the wrong patient’s records, and that our client’s husband was still alive.

Naturally our client was severely shocked and upset by the phone call. Two days later she suffered an acute onset of Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy, also known as ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’, which is usually triggered by extreme emotional stress often involving a loved one. 

The NHS Trust admitted that their nurse had breached a duty of care owed to our client, who was not herself a patient in the hospital and this had caused her injury. Fortunately, although she required hospital treatment, our client made a good recovery.

Richard Bannister said: “The case highlighted an interesting area of law because our injured client was not a patient of the hospital where the direct duty of care normally applies. It was also unusual because it involved a rare and unexpected medical complication arising from a careless error in communication.”

What is Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy?

According to the British Heart Foundation website, Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy is a condition which causes the left ventricle of your heart (the main blood-pumping chamber) to become enlarged and change shape, making it weaker and less able to pump blood. 

Symptoms such as sudden, intense chest pain and shortness of breath can be mistaken for symptoms of heart attack. Some people may also experience palpitations, nausea, and sickness. If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 999 immediately. 

Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy is thought to be triggered primarily by severe emotional or physical stress, such as bereavement or grief, physical assault, recent surgery, or severe and sudden injury. The British Heart Foundation also suggests that some people have experienced the condition after a happy event.

Women are more likely to be affected than men and Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy can develop at any age. Unlike most other types of cardiomyopathy, Takatsubo is not inherited.

What is the treatment for Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy?

The British Heart Foundation is undertaking research into the condition, but there is currently no standard treatment. Once Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy is diagnosed, you may be prescribed medication to treat your symptoms, such as:

  • Diuretics
  • Beta blockers or ACE inhibitors
  • Blood thinners

It is usually temporary, however, and most people make a full recovery within a few weeks. Some people take longer to recover and in a few cases their hearts may permanently change shape and they continue to experience symptoms. 

For further information about Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy and other heart conditions, visit the British Heart Foundation. The NHS website also has information about cardiomyopathy diseases.



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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