Inquest finds “Gross Failings” Contributed to Avoidable Death from Constipation
The inquest into the tragic death of Richard Handley, a 33-year old man with Downs Syndrome and learning difficulties who died of the complications of chronic constipation, was the subject of substantial media reporting and comment this week.
Ben Rich represented the GP practice where Mr Handley was registered. The Coroner, Dr Peter Dean, heard two weeks of evidence covering Mr Handley’s early life, the years he spent in a residential home and the final illness which led to his death more than five years ago.
The Coroner identified a gross failure at Ipswich Hospital where Mr Handley’s deteriorating condition was not properly followed up. When Mr Handley was admitted to the hospital there was nothing inevitable about his death, and the Coroner said he should have survived. He said that changes in Mr Handley’s diet after the residential home was converted to a “supported living” facility contributed to the worsening of lifelong problems with his bowels. If this had not happened, then he would not have needed to go to hospital in the first place.
In his final week Mr Handley saw a trainee GP and a psychiatrist, neither of whom sent him straight to A&E, but this had not affected the final outcome because when he did get to hospital, his condition was still treatable.
The whole inquest was tweeted live (@HandleyInquest). The Coroner paid tribute to the family whose perseverance and diligence had unearthed some of the key evidence. Afterwards Richard Handley’s mother, Sheila, expressed the family’s “profound disappointment” that the Coroner had felt unable to make a finding of neglect.
Ben was instructed by Joshua Morrison of Gordons Partnership.
The case received a lot of attention in the national press. To read more, please follow the links below: