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Button Battery Ingestion

So long as button batteries remain widely available to the public for the powering of various devices there will be a need to educate parents and carers of the dangers presented to children through accidental button battery ingestion.

When button batteries come into contact with soft tissue of the mouth, throat, oesophagus or similar tissue the electrical current will begin to discharge and produce caustic soda also known as lye (a common and effective drain cleaner). This will immediately, and quite naturally, cause the soft tissue in contact with the alkaline to be chemically burnt. This can lead to internal bleeding, serious harm and/or death.

Tissue damage such as hematemesis or haematemesis (vomiting blood), hempopthsis haemoptysis (coughing blood) and respiratory difficulties can take as long as 28 days to manifest after battery ingestion. If one is unfortunate enough to find themselves in such a situation one should immediately seek medical attention. 

NHS England has issued a patient safety warning that states the simple removal of a battery may still be insufficient to prevent further damage manifesting at a later time. Patients will require expert input careful monitoring and follow-up.

Recently, in May 2016 two-year-old girl was taken to Basingstoke hospital after becoming ill and died within hours. A small battery was found later during tests. An inquest heard that the battery had burnt through an artery close to her windpipe.

What is the position of the unfortunate individual when the medical care provided falls short of what should be reasonably expected? Well, that individual may be able to claim compensation from the Doctor or relevant Hospital Trust for their "medical negligence" (also known as clinical negligence).

Ashfords Clinical Negligence Team has experience of the dangers of button batteries. We dealt with a case of a 3 year old child who, unbeknown to his parents, had swallowed a button battery. The child said that he had swallowed a "plastic coin". The hospital relied on what the child had said negligently declined to perform an x-ray thus allowing the battery to leak into the child's throat. Fortunately for that family the child was able to make a full recovery.

 

 

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