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Jessye Norman’s Family Sue Over Treatment That Allegedly Left Her Paralysed

Jessye Norman’s family sue over treatment that allegedly left her paralysed

She had a voice described as a “grand mansion of sound”, won four Grammy awards and thrilled audiences in the world’s opera house – but suddenly stopped performing in 2015.

When Jessye Norman died four years later at the age of 74, her family said she had passed away from septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury she had sustained in 2015. The circumstances surrounding the injury and disappearance from public life were never explained.

However, it can be revealed that Norman’s brother is suing two renowned doctors and a leading London private hospital for allegedly leaving her paralysed when she underwent surgery in 2015 to try and cure a longstanding and painful back problem.

James Howard Norman Sr has launched a lawsuit alleging that medical negligence by anaesthetist and pain specialist Dr Adnan Al-Kaisy, consultant spinal surgeon Khai Lam and the London Bridge hospital left his sister unable to move her body below the waist.

The doctors and hospital are disputing his claims.

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

His claim, which has been lodged at the high court in London, alleges that a series of mistakes meant “the deceased was effectively paralysed from the waist downwards, she could not walk, she could not stand even in a standing frame and she was wheelchair-bound”.

It continues: “She needed extensive care. She lived out her days in a rented apartment in New York since she could not access her home in Westchester County.”

The document claims that Al-Kaisy performed the epidurolysis despite the “limited evidence of the procedure’s efficacy, and little if any evidence of its safety”, despite the operation being little-used in the UK and the fact that it was not recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) for back pain. It also accuses the doctor of not warning the singer of these weaknesses and not acquiring her informed consent to proceed with the procedure in those circumstances.

Norman’s brother contends that Lam also failed to warn the star about the limitations of the epidurolysis and that the procedure was the wrong treatment for the condition she was suffering from, called spinal stenosis. He claims Lam did not warn his sister “of the significant risk of paralysis arising from the procedure, in particular severe and permanent damage to the nerves involving paralysis and loss of the use of the lower part of the body”.

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

Norman Sr’s claim says 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 leading NHS trust in London. Al-Kaisy performed the procedure at the London Bridge private hospital on 12 May 2015.

Both doctors are leading practitioners in their areas of medical expertise. Lam has regularly had articles published in medical journals and spoken at many medical conferences. The website for the GSTT’s private patient unit says that Al-Kaisy “has an international reputation as a leading expert in pain management”.

The legendary soprano was still in hospital in London after her treatment in 2015 when she first sought advice from law firm Leigh Day about taking legal action, and formally launched proceedings the next year. Her brother took over as the claimant when she died in 2019.

His claim also alleges that HCA, the giant American healthcare firm which owns and runs the London Bridge hospital, was negligent in not ensuring that the epidurolysis Lam and Al-Kaisy had recommended was safe, appropriate and evidence-based.

Olive Lewin, the specialist medical negligence solicitor at Leigh Day who is representing Norman Sr in the action, said: “The injuries Miss Norman sustained made her final years extremely difficult. It is a sad fact that despite wanting to, she was unable to continue engaging in the activities and events she loved most in the last four years of her life.

“Jessye Norman had painful sciatica, and was admitted to the London Bridge hospital for a pain-relieving procedure. She ended up being paralysed within hours of a procedure for which the claimant says there was no informed consent, and the efficacy of the procedure has not been proven.

“A negligence claim is being pursued as a result. This remains an ongoing claim, which is currently being defended.”

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

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

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

Browne Jacobson solicitors, who are representing Al-Kaisy, said that patient confidentiality meant that he could not say anything but does deny the claims. His lawyer, Matthew Trinder, added: “I can tell you that all the allegations are strenuously denied and that a full defence has been served.”

Lam did not reply to requests to respond.


Kwara approves 100% consolidated health salary structure for nurses

The Kwara State government has approved and implemented a 100% Consolidated Health Salary Structure, (CONHESS) for nurses in the state.

Also, the state government has recruited about 63 nurses to fill the vacuum created by the brain drain in the country to improve the quality and standard of nursing care in line with the global best practices.

The Chairman and Secretary of the Kwara State Council of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Aminu Shehu and Markus Luka respectively, disclosed this in a statement in Ilorin made available to journalists.

The association appreciated the Executive Secretary of the state Hospital Management Bureau for playing a vital role in the struggle towards ensuring that its demands were met by the government.

The body also commended Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq for the approval and implementation of the 100% CONHESS and the recruitment of more nurses to boost healthcare delivery in the state.


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More than 400 consultant anesthetists left Nigeria in 2yrs – Society

More than 400 consultant anesthetists left the shores of Nigeria for greener pastures in the last two years, President of the Nigerian Society of Anesthetists, Dr Olubusola Alagbe-Briggs said in Gombe on Wednesday.

Alagbe-Briggs told newsmen on the side-line of the society’s 31st annual scientific conference that the immigrant anesthetists left Nigeria in search of better practice environment.

She said anesthetists were the most sought-after specialists in foreign lands because of the peculiarity of their services.

“There is a global shortage of anesthetists because of the nature of the job which is intensive, acute and focused.

“We had about 1,200 members in the past, but today we have only 800 members.

“Those countries that are short of anesthetists are pulling those here in Nigeria to their countries.

“Nigerian professionals are the best. They are highly sought-after by other countries.

“Medical practitioners and other professionals will continue to emigrate until their welfare and available equipment are improved upon,’’ she said.

Alagbe-Briggs stressed that availability appropriate equipment and improved welfare were essential to improve medical practice and services.

She said the conference itself sought to ensure continuous enhancement of the knowledge of the society’s members to help to improve their services.

“We are looking at how we can help to improve on cancer care; we are involved in the operational stage, pain relief, emergency care and intensive care.

“We are in Gombe to brainstorm on how to improve our specialty in line with the theme of the conference, learn from one another and share research outcomes,’’ Alagbe-Briggs said.

The conference has: “Anesthesia and the pre-operative care of patients with cancers’’ as its theme.

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WHO Demands Fresh Data from China amid Outbreak of Pneumonia in Children

The World Health Organization (WHO) is requesting more data from China amid an outbreak of pneumonia in children.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, said the agency was ‘following up with China’ as hospitals across the country continue to be overwhelmed.

Face masks and social distancing are again being recommended in the country.

The country is said to be grappling with a spike in pneumonia, dubbed ‘white lung syndrome’ because of the way lung damage shows up on scans, among children that has been attributed to a rebound in respiratory illnesses rather than an entirely new virus.



China had one of the most brutal and longest lockdowns of any country in the world which the WHO says robbed children of vital immunity against seasonal illnesses. 

Dr Van Kerkhove told the conference today: ‘Yes, we are seeing an increase in respiratory infections around the world.

‘We’re in autumn and entering winter months, so we are expecting to see rises in respiratory infections regardless.

We are following up with China. They are seeing an increase due a number of different infections

We are following up with our clinical network and following up with clinicians in China.

‘In terms of acute respiratory infections, we are looking at the burden on healthcare systems and looking at the healthcare capacities of systems.’

It comes after Chinese Health Ministry spokesman Mi Feng urged people in the country to again consider wearing face masks and distancing.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, he said: ‘Efforts should be made to increase the opening of relevant clinics and treatment areas, extend service hours and increase the supply of medicines.

‘It is necessary to do a good job in epidemic prevention and control in key crowded places.

‘[This includes] in schools, childcare institutions and nursing homes, and to reduce the flow of people and visits.’

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