Dentist tragedy parents strike deal
THE family of a Scots youngster who died during a routine tooth extraction have agreed a secret out-of-court compensation deal six years after the tragedy, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
But the pain continues for the parents of Darren Denholm, who last night disclosed they recently separated after 12 years of marriage as a direct result of the strain caused by their loss and the legal wrangle that followed.
Isla and Wayne Denholm launched a legal claim for compensation shortly after 10-year-old Darren’s death and sources close to the case have confirmed that an out-of-court deal has been reached, subject to a confidentiality clause which prevents disclosure of the amount.
One legal expert said last night that, despite the enormity of the tragedy, the payout was unlikely to exceed 40,000.
Darren, from Armadale, West Lothian, died in October 1998 when he suffered a heart seizure during treatment at the Peffermill Clinic, Edinburgh.
A fatal accident inquiry the following year heard the youngster suffered a fatal reaction to two different types of anaesthetic he was given.
During the surgery, Dr John Evans-Appiah asked dentist Hallgeir Pedersen to administer a local anaesthetic containing adrenaline to the child who was already under general anaesthetic even though the combination could cause heart failure.
When the boy suffered cardiac arrest, an ambulance was called but he died en route to hospital.
In 2001, the Denholms launched a civil action against Evans-Appiah, of Leyton, east London, a Ghanaian medic, who trained in the Ukraine before coming to Britain in 1997.
Also cited was Maurice Beckett, of Church Street, Blackpool, who owned the clinic, and Colin Poggo, owner of the Poggo agency, which provided Evans-Appiah to the surgery.
Speaking from her home in Edinburgh, Isla Denholm told how the settlement, which will be paid by insurers, was a bittersweet victory.
"I feel very flat. I’ve thought about nothing else for the past six years as it’s been constant and an ongoing process of lawyers, courts, police and press," she said.
"The money means little to me. Darren’s death has never been about the money. The amount is the one thing I can keep private. What is important is that what happened to Darren can never happen to anyone else. I have chased the truth about what happened and successfully campaigned for general anaesthetic not to be used in clinics.
"It’s a wonderful feeling to know that Darren did not die in vain. I wanted Evans-Appiah struck off and I fought incredibly hard to have him struck off. So all in all I feel I’ve achieved what I wanted. The sheer negligence that caused my son to die will not happen again."
Following his blunder, Evans-Appiah then tried to get his colleagues to lie for him and invented pulse and blood pressure readings - which had never been taken - to mask his incompetence.
A probe by the General Medical Council’s professional conduct committee in 2000 found him guilty of 17 blunders in his treatment of Darren at the Craigmillar clinic which has since been sold by Maurice Beckett and been taken over by new management.
He was found guilty of professional misconduct and struck off the medical register.
It later emerged Evans-Appiah had also botched the anaesthetic on a woman undergoing a Caesarean section just three weeks after Darren’s death and had been investigated by the General Medical Council over concerns over his ability to administer anaesthetic.
Denholm spoke of her anger that the doctor was ever allowed to practise and accused the General Medical Council of also being implicated in Darren’s death.
"I’m extremely angry that he was allowed to slip through the net," she said. "He has never shown me any remorse and has never come to me and said he was sorry. I think that shows how guilty he must feel.
"Evans-Appiah made a fool of everyone, but the GMC allowed him to get away with it. I blame them as much as the doctor."
Following an investigation into the death, general anaesthesia was banned at dental surgeries. New guidelines were developed by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, which pools expertise from Scotland’s Royal Colleges,
recommending that trained nurses be in attendance while children are sedated.
Although her civil action has ended, Denholm said the trauma felt by her family will continue, the heavy toll having already contributed to the collapse of her marriage to her husband in June.
"We could not cope when he died. Having to go through the FAI and deal with the press, I dealt with everything. The pressure just caused us to drift apart."
Cameron Fyfe, solicitor with Glasgow-based firm Ross Harper, said compensation for the death of a child often failed to match the immense grief felt by parents.
Huge payments are more likely to be paid in the case of an adult who dies and whose lifelong earning potential is lost.
"In Scotland, you don’t get huge amounts for the death of a child," he said. "In the past, awards had ranged between 10,000-15,000 per parent. But there was an appeal case recently involving a couple who were later awarded 20,000 due to what was described as a special relationship between the parents and child. In this case I would expect the settlement to be around 40,000."
Robert Carr, solicitor for the Denholms, said: "Legal proceedings have come to an end and now the family can begin to get on with the rest of their lives."
Reacting to the figure suggested by Fyfe, Carr said: "It is wholly misleading. This case is unique. There is nothing that can be drawn from existing case law."
A spokesman for the British Dental Association declined to comment on the case.
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