Nova Scotia

N.S. woman left with locked-in condition wins lawsuit

A woman in Louisbourg, N.S. has won her 15 year case against a Halifax hospital and one of its doctors.

Hospital procedure in 1997 caused woman to have a stroke

A Cape Breton woman has won a Supreme Court decision against a Halifax doctor.

Victoria Anderson of Louisbourg was 23-years-old when a procedure in Halifax went terribly wrong. She was left in a condition where she is "locked–in", a condition she remains in today, 15 years later.

The only muscles Victoria Anderson can voluntarily move are those controlling her eyes, yet she remains cognitively intact.

"The day she had the stroke, we all had one," said Victoria's mother Mildred Anderson.

In 1997, Victoria Anderson was the mother of a young daughter and was planning to get married. Her daughter is now 17–years–old.

"It'll be a big change," said her daughter, Danielle LeMoine. "It will change our lives forever. I guess now we'll have tears of joy as opposed to tears of sadness."

Anderson and her family filed a medical malpractice suit against the Queen Elizabeth ll Health Sciences Center and two of their doctors.

'The day she had the stroke, we all had one'—Mildred Anderson, Victoria's mother

Lawyer Ray Wagner, who is representing the family, said a financial settlement has been made but he won't specify the amount. He told CBC News it was in the millions of dollars. 

Court documents show Anderson, 38, brought the legal action against the two doctors alleging their negligent attempts at a central line placement caused her to suffer a stroke, resulting in locked–in syndrome.

The documents indicate Dr. Shirl Ann Gee was found to have undertaken the central line placement in a negligent fashion, not assuring that the plaintiff's head was placed in the proper location for the procedure. 

"A needle was placed too deeply into the neck," said Wagner. "That caused a rupture of one of the major arteries going to the base of your brain stem."

The Court determined that it was more probable than not that the doctor inadvertently punctured the vertebral artery twice during the procedure, giving rise to Anderson's stroke.

The other doctor was absolved of liability, given that he was acting under the supervision of the more senior defendant and there was no evidence his attempts at the procedure caused any injury which could have given rise to Anderson's stroke. The case against the hospital was dropped.