The family of a pensioner who died from asphyxiation in a care home in Ashton-under-Lyne in June 2018, finally got the answers they sought following an inquest and the conclusion of a civil claim.
A post mortem found that 78-year-old Mrs Irene Collins, had a latex glove lodged in her throat which had blocked her airway and the inquest at Stockport Coroner’s Court in 2019 found that that Irene had indeed died as a consequence of ingesting that glove while unsupervised.
The coroner also issued a Regulation 28, Prevention of future deaths report, which was sent to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Suffering from vascular dementia, Mrs Collins had a propensity (well known to the care staff) to put inappropriate things, such as cotton wool and flowers, in her mouth. Even before the inquest, the family had no doubt that the cause of Irene’s death was the obstruction of her upper airway due to her swallowing the latex glove. However, they were completely unaware of the previous incidents until evidence emerged after Irene’s death at the inquest.
Sarah Cunliffe, a Senior Associate in Shoosmiths’ Serious Injury team who specialises in care home abuse and neglect cases, commented on how the coroner’s conclusion assisted with the success of the civil claim against the care home.
Sarah said: “The inquest revealed that this vulnerable lady, who was totally dependent on the care home staff, had a history of putting items into her mouth.
“This had been witnessed by a number of carers, yet they did not report this to senior management or family members and did not update Mrs Collins’ care plan and risk assessment.
“The evidence heard by the coroner, together with his narrative conclusion, also corroborated the assertions of negligence in our claim.”
The claim settled for a relatively low six figure sum, as is typical in these cases involving elderly residents in care home settings.
However, equally typically in these cases, monetary compensation was not the family’s motivation – getting to the truth was far more important.
The inquest process did unearth more than they initially thought and gave them clarity about what happened. They were also pleased that the coroner issued a Regulation 28 report, also known as a Prevention of future deaths report, to hopefully prevent others going through the same tragic experience. A coroner can issue a report to address any concerns s/he may have arising from an inquest where s/he feels that action should be taken to prevent similar occurrences and deaths.
However, as Sarah also advises, getting to this end point was a long and emotionally demanding process for her clients.
Sarah commented: “Progressing a civil claim is intense and time consuming and attending an inquest can be a daunting experience. Listening to details of how a loved one died when it is clear that death could have been avoided is very distressing.
“Even if families do not have or do not wish to pursue a civil claim, legal representation at inquest is essential to give them support, help them understand what is going on and get to the truth.”
A member of Mrs Collin’s family also said: “I would just like to say thank you so much for all your help and support during the most difficult time in my life, and then to follow it on, I cannot thank you enough, I hope now I can start grieving for my lovely mum.”
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024