Pryers solicitors currently represent the family of a woman who died at a hospital in Cumbria following a routine operation in 2016. The inquest into her death resumed this week.
44-year-old Sharon Grierson has left two adult children, and two younger children still at school.
The Senior Coroner for the area, David Roberts, was informed of the death amid concerns surrounding the removal and reinsertion of a breathing tube following a routine operation. After completion of the surgery, difficulties were experienced when bringing Sharon round from the anaesthetic, and the tube had to be reinserted. Despite the presence of four Consultant Anaesthetists, it took three attempts to reintubate her, and she went without oxygen for a total of at least 40 minutes. This caused her to suffer a significant brain injury, and she sadly passed away four days later.
Evidence from an independent expert anaesthetist instructed for the police investigation confirmed that the anaesthetists involved paid no attention to the zero readings on a capnography machine, which is used to ensure the patient is breathing properly. Despite the distinct lack of evidence that the woman was breathing, the anaesthetists continued to believe that the breathing tube was properly positioned in her airway.
During evidence heard this week, the Coroner asked the expert directly whether he was of the view that failure to consider the capnography readings would be considered to be a failure to provide basic care. A failure to provide basic medical care is part of the legal test required for a Coroner to come to a conclusion that a death was caused by neglect. The expert answered that he did believe this to be a failure to provide basic care.
Upon hearing this evidence, those representing the Hospital Trust and two of the anaesthetists separately asked that the hearing be adjourned. In the interests of fairness, and due to the evidence running into the evening, the Coroner reluctantly allowed the inquest to be adjourned.
The Coroner’s questions regarding a possible finding of neglect indicate how seriously he is taking this matter and the errors made by the hospital.
Understandably, the family are frustrated and upset by this adjournment. Nevertheless, they are pleased that Mr Roberts is treating the matter so seriously and hope that those involved will rightly be held accountable.