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Father-to-be's Cardiac Death Was Likely Avoidable

A 40-year-old man who died of a sudden cardiac arrest on the day his daughter was born might have lived if doctors had not missed signs of a heart defect, a coroner has concluded.

The man had been suffering from a gastrointestinal illness and had attended an accident and emergency department. An electrocardiogram (ECG) scan showed signs of abnormality, but a doctor judged that it was not clinically significant in the absence of other heart-related symptoms. The man was found dead by his wife 11 days later, when she tried to wake him before going into hospital for an elective caesarean section.

Later analysis concluded that the ECG scan indicated a complete heart block. The coroner found that, had this been appreciated, he would probably have been fitted with an implantable device such as a pacemaker, and his death would likely have been avoided.

The NHS trust responsible for the hospital where he was treated has reportedly made a full admission of liability for providing negligent care. Given the coroner's findings, a substantial settlement or award of damages is likely.