Jessye Norman’s family sue for treatment that would have left her paralyzed | Opera

Opera singer

She had a voice described as a “great mansion of sound,” won four Grammy awards, and wowed opera audiences around the world, but suddenly stopped performing in 2015.

When Jessye Norman died four years later at the age of 74, her family said she died of septic shock and multiple organ failure secondary to complications from a spinal cord injury that she had suffered in 2015. The circumstances surrounding the injury and the disappearance from public life have never been explained.

However, the Guardian can reveal that Norman’s brother is suing two renowned doctors and a leading private hospital in London for allegedly leaving her paralyzed when she underwent surgery in 2015 to try and cure a painful back problem. and for a long time.

James Howard Norman Sr has filed a lawsuit alleging that the medical negligence of anesthesiologist and pain specialist Dr Adnan Al-Kaisy, spine surgeon Khai Lam and London Bridge Hospital prevented his sister to move her body below the waist.

Doctors and the hospital are contesting his claims.

The singer’s brother claims she suffered horrific damage as a result of a procedure called epidurolysis, which is used to dissolve scar tissue around nerves in the spine.

Her complaint, which was filed with the High Court in London, alleges that a series of errors meant that “the deceased was indeed paralyzed from the waist down, she couldn’t walk, she couldn’t stand. standing even standing and she was in a wheelchair. -bounce “.

He continues: “She needed intensive care. She spent her days in a rented apartment in New York City because she could not access her home in Westchester County.

The document claims that Al-Kaisy performed epidurolysis despite “limited evidence of the procedure’s effectiveness, and little to no evidence of its safety,” despite the fact that the operation is little used in the UK. Uni and the fact that it was not recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) for back pain. He also accuses the doctor of not having warned the singer of these weaknesses and of not having obtained her informed consent to proceed with the procedure in these circumstances.

Norman’s brother maintains that Lam also failed to warn the star of the limits of epidurolysis and that the procedure was the wrong treatment for the condition she was suffering from, called spinal stenosis. He says Lam did not warn his sister “of the significant risk of paralysis resulting from the procedure, especially severe and permanent nerve damage resulting in paralysis and loss of use of the lower body.”

According to Norman, his sister developed sciatica in March 2015 after undergoing surgery in New York City the previous month. A week later, she came to London to fulfill some commitments and, on the advice of one of her doctors from her native United States, had a consultation with Lam at London Bridge Hospital. He noted that standing for a few minutes left him with pain and numbness in his right leg. He tried two treatments – steroid injections and the insertion of a “distraction device” – but neither relieved his symptoms.

Norman Sr.’s claim indicates that Lam then suggested that the singer undergo epidurolysis and suggested that Al-Kaisy could perform it. Both undertake private medical treatment and also work at Guy’s and St Thomas’ (GSTT), the main NHS trust in London. Al-Kaisy performed the procedure at London Bridge Private Hospital on May 12, 2015.

Both physicians are leading practitioners in their areas of medical expertise. Lam has regularly published articles in medical journals and spoken at numerous medical conferences. The GSTT Private Patient Unit website states that Al-Kaisy “has an international reputation as a leading expert in pain management.”

The legendary soprano was still hospitalized in London after her treatment in 2015 when she first sought advice from the Leigh Day law firm to initiate legal action and formally initiated proceedings the following year. His brother took over as a claimant when he passed away in 2019.

His complaint also alleges that HCA, the giant US healthcare company that owns and operates London Bridge Hospital, was negligent in failing to ensure that the epidurolysis recommended by Lam and Al-Kaisy was safe. , appropriate and evidence-based.

Olive Lewin, Leigh Day’s medical negligence lawyer who represents Norman Sr. in the action, said: “Miss Norman’s injuries made her last years extremely difficult. It is a sad fact that despite wanting to, she could not continue to engage in the activities and events that she loved the most in the last four years of her life.

“Jessye Norman had painful sciatica and was admitted to London Bridge Hospital for a pain relief procedure. She ended up paralyzed hours after a procedure for which the applicant claims there was no informed consent and the effectiveness of the procedure has not been proven.

“A negligence complaint is pending. This remains an ongoing claim, which is currently being defended. “

None of the defendants in the case responded directly to the allegations when approached by the Guardian, but they dispute the allegations against them and each has filed a defense.

HCA Healthcare UK owns and operates other private hospitals in the capital in addition to London Bridge, including Wellington, Princess Grace and Lister.

A spokesperson for the HCA said, “In order to ensure the confidentiality of every patient we care for, we would not comment on an investigation of an individual’s care.”

Lawyers for Browne Jacobson, who represent Al-Kaisy, said the patient’s confidentiality meant he couldn’t say anything but denied the allegations. His attorney, Matthew Trinder, added: “I can tell you that all allegations are vigorously denied and a full defense has been served. “

Lam did not respond to requests for a response.


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