The family of a young Queensland woman severely brain-damaged after a paramedic treated her for an asthma attack have lost a long-running legal battle for compensation.
The High Court has ruled that the State of Queensland is not liable for negligence after Clinton Peters failed to administer adrenaline promptly as chronic asthmatic Jennifer Leanne Masson was gripped by an asthma attack in 2002.
Ms Masson, 25, blue in the face and struggling for breath when Mr Peters initially injected her with salbutamol instead of adrenaline.
The officer continued the treatment for about 20 minutes before switching to adrenaline.
In all, the officer administered twice the maximum dosage of salbutamol recommended by QAS.
Initially the paramedic believed Ms Masson's condition was improving, however her vital signs worsened on the way to hospital.
A critical lack of oxygen to Ms Masson's brain left her chronically disabled and needing round-the-clock care for 14 years before she died in 2016.
Her family argued adrenaline should have been administered immediately, or at least within a couple of minutes.
The ambulance officers were not adequately trained and instructed, they said.
Ms Masson's family initially failed in suing the state for negligence in a decision overruled by the Court of Appeal in May 2019.
The Queensland government appealed that decision in the High Court, arguing the Court of Appeal finding was "impermissible interference" with the decision of the trial judge.
The state argued in the High Court that in 2002 a "responsible body of medical opinion" supported administering salbutamol and not adrenaline to someone like Ms Masson suffering respiratory attack, as well as a high heart rate and high blood pressure.
It also argued the QAS manual did not direct the use of adrenaline.
The High Court on Thursday restored the decision of the trial judge and found that Mr Peters "made a clinical judgment not to administer adrenaline because of Ms Masson's high heart rate and blood pressure".
"In the circumstances, Mr Peters' treatment of Ms Masson did not fall below the standard of care expected of an ordinary skilled intensive care paramedic," the judgment summary states.
"The decision not to administer adrenaline did not contravene the guidance in the clinical practice manual, which was a flexible document that permitted the exercise of clinical judgment.
"Nor was the decision negligent, as it conformed with a responsible body of professional opinion."
Australian Associated Press