Death of Indian-origin man in UK hospital to face coroner's office enquiry

September 25, 2023

London, Sep 25 (AGENCY):

An investigation by the coroner's office is opening into the case of a 30-year-old Indian-origin man, who died in a top UK hospital last month with his father saying that he could have been saved if the family was given right to a second medical opinion.

Jay Patel, 58, said that when his son Balram fell ill, he was given unsuitable treatment and was refused right to a second opinion from senior medics, known as the Martha's rule in the UK.

The rule gives patients and their families the legal right to a second opinion from senior medics in the same hospital if they feel their concerns are being overlooked and if the patient's condition is deteriorating rapidly.

Jay said Balram’s lungs became fatally-flooded and he died at St Thomas’ Hospital in London on August 9, adding that the coroner’s office is opening “an investigation in regard to care and delay of treatment given”.

According to the report, the hospital authorities mentioned pulmonary oedema (build-up of fluid in the lungs) as the cause of Balram's death only after Jay intervened with the coroner’s office.

A coroner's office investigates all deaths where the cause is unknown, where there is reason to think the death may not be due to natural causes, or which need an inquiry for some other reason, according to a UK government website.

Blaming the UK's National Health Service, Jay said Balram -- who had multiple disabilities and was developmentally delayed -- passed away in pain, suffering in a "very inappropriate manner, before his time".

“I am mortified at losing my baby. I couldn’t do what was needed to turn it around and I tried literally absolutely everything,” Jay told.

Patel said his son, “who was born with half a functioning heart” was initially treated with oral diuretics, which reduce build-up of fluid in the body, at the hospital but, because they did not work, medics switched to intravenous (IV) diuretics.

Due to a Covid outbreak, district nurses could not be found to administer the IV diuretics at home, Jay said.

The medics decided that the diuretics could be administered through an alternative method using a syringe pump to diffuse through the tissue rather than directly through the bloodstream, as is the case with IV, the report stated.

Patel said he managed to find a bariatric surgeon who had agreed to administer the diuretics via the agreed method at home but he was never contacted.

In the meantime, the doctors decided that Balram would be discharged from hospital with oral diuretics despite Jay's opposition given his son’s previous experience with them.

He said he asked for a second opinion but this was denied.

“If Martha’s law had been put in place and in a way that there could be a swift response to the second opinion requested, I’m sure Balram would not have died when he did,” he told.

A few days after his discharge from the hospital, Balram's condition began to worsen.

When Jay called the hospital on August 7 to say that the oral diuretics were not working, his pleas fell on deaf ears and he never received a call back from the hospital.

He rushed to the hospital on August 8 when an X-ray taken at around 7 p.m. showed that his son's lungs were flooded but despite multiple requests, the IV diuretic was not initiated till about 1 a.m.

Jay said Balram stopped breathing at about 4 a.m. on August 9 and was declared dead about 40 minutes later.

A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust said: “We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to Balram’s family. Balram had incredibly complex health needs and had been under our care throughout his life, during which he was cared for by an extensive multidisciplinary team. Any concerns the family have will be fully investigated.”

The UK's Health Secretary, Steve Barclay said he is committed to introducing Martha’s rule in hospitals following a campaign by the parents of 13-year-old Martha Mills, who died at King’s College hospital NHS foundation trust in south London after she developed sepsis.


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