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Hand sanitiser is widely used in hospitals to try to combat the spread of infection, but its use is not without risk, as a recent case involving a vulnerable patient shows.
If consumed, alcohol-based sanitisers can cause alcohol poisoning that in severe cases can result in respiratory arrest and death. After the elderly man died as a result of drinking an entire bottle of hand gel, his family secured a five-figure compensation settlement.
John Haughey, 76, was being treated for a chest infection. He had been confused and forgetful before his admission to hospital. Whilst undergoing treatment, he drank 500ml of the alcohol-based liquid, which was the equivalent of a litre of gin, and developed bronchopneumonia. He died a few days later.
An investigation into his death found that hospital staff had failed to take appropriate action following the incident.
Mr Haughey's family brought a personal injury claim against the NHS trust responsible for the hospital, which admitted that there had been a breach of the duty of care owed to him and agreed to pay an undisclosed sum in compensation.
Since Mr Haughey’s death, the NHS trust has introduced lockable, wall-mounted dispensers and issued staff with mini bottles of hand wash. It is confident that its actions will prevent any similar incidents in future.