Implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or ICDs, deliver a jolt of electricity to correct life-threatening heart rhythms and cost upwards of $35,000 each
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) deliver a jolt of electricity to correct life-threatening heart rhythms Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

A grieving family has won an out-of-court settlement from the NHS for the treatment their dying father received after bungling medics failed to switch off a heart device that shocked him more than 30 times in two days.

Doctors at Tameside Hospital in Greater Manchester, failed to notice or remove a defibrillator that kept Brian Williams, 77, in "inhumane" pain while he died.

Williams, a father of seven, was admitted to hospital after collapsing at home. After scans showed he had a terminal brain tumour, his family decided to stop his treatment.

But Williams was prevented from dying as the device shocked his heart and jerked his body back to life each time he was close to death.

Defibrillator implants are fitted in people with abnormal heart rhythms, and can give the heart electric shocks to restore the patient's heart beat.

His family complained after seeing him "jumping off the bed", and alerted nurses when a relative held his hand and received an electric shock that threw him across the room.

They say Mr William's device – which doctors at the Tameside Hospital had arranged to be fitted six years earlier – was clearly visible under the skin of his chest and was in his medical records.

But doctors and nurses dismissed their concerns, saying the device was a pacemaker and was unlikely to cause him any pain. The catastrophic error was finally detected after two days, by which time Williams had received 31 painful shocks.

His daughter Lynda Beresford, 58, told the Daily Mirror that she and her six siblings will never forget seeing their dad in such distress.

Lynda, of Hattersley, Greater Manchester, added: "Those last two days were just horrendous and it is something that will live with all of us forever. My dad's final wish for a dignified death was cruelly taken away from him."

Son John, 51, said: "We can never forgive how my Dad was treated or understand why they would not accept what was happening."

The family says it took more than two years since Williams died in April 2012 for the Trust to apologise.

Bosses at Tameside Hospital NHS Trust, which was put in special measures by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last July after poor performance, have agreed to an undisclosed out-of-court payout. It "unreservedly apologised" to the family, and vowed to make changes to prevent the errors being repeated.

Specialist medical lawyer Ayse Ince, of legal firm Irwin Mitchell which represented the family, said: "This is a very tragic case in which the family had to watch as their terminally ill father endured a painful and inhumane death ‒ quite the opposite of what was intended by medical staff. The care he received on the end-of-life care pathway was simply unacceptable."