Family Says Hospital Left Them Not Knowing How Their Daughter Died

Medical law experts say family had to wait for coroner’s inquiry to provide answers as to how 17 year old daughter died

20.12.2012

The family of a 17-year-old girl who died after complications relating to a bone marrow transplant from her younger sister to cure leukaemia are relieved to finally receive answers about the care their daughter received.

Chloe Dwyer, from Sale, Cheshire had a life-threatening form of leukaemia which required a bone marrow transplant from her 13-year-old sister in February 2011 at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

After the transplant she suffered from various expected complications relating to the drugs she was given including seizures, fever, abdominal pain and severe musositis. But when she developed a rash all over her body and extreme facial swelling, her family began to get extremely concerned.

Jeff Dwyer, 45, and his wife Nicki, 42, instructed medical law specialists at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office who represented them at the inquest on a pro-bono basis. 

Although they were relieved to finally find out what happened to their daughter, they are angry that it has taken almost two years to get answers and claim the hospital did not make it clear enough as to how she died.

At an inquest into her death at Manchester Coroner’s Court, HM Coroner Nigel Meadows recorded a narrative verdict saying that Chloe died from complications arising from necessary treatment for chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Leena Savjani, an expert medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “Over the past two years the family has been devastated. They tragically lost their daughter to leukaemia and had many questions over the treatment she received during her post operative care.

“The family feel they have been left completely in the dark by Manchester Children’s Hospital as to what caused Chloe’s death – they say they received no explanation at the time Chloe’s complications arose, nor after Chloe’s death.

“The family are grateful to the Coroner for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Chloe’s death, part of which included commissioning independent expert evidence into Chloe’s care.

“It is unacceptable for them to have to wait until the inquest to get answers about what happened, and for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to make no attempts to provide the family with at least an explanation of what they considered had gone wrong. 

“The family now realise that Chloe died from a rare complication of bone marrow transplant known as ‘Engraftment Syndrome’ however this was never explained to them at the time or after Chloe’s death. This is unacceptable, and I hope the inquest now goes some way to providing them with closure so that they can begin to move on with their lives.”

After the bone marrow transplant, Chloe suffered from seizures, a sore mouth, and abdominal pain. These were all expected complications of a transplant but a few days later she developed a fever and became extremely unwell so she was started on Tazocin medication, which is a type of penicillin antibiotic.

Chloe’s condition continued to deteriorate and she showed signs of a high fever and severe pain. Her lips and mouth had become swollen and her parents believed this to be an allergic reaction to the penicillin – something the hospital believed not to be true saying that Chloe’s immune system could not react that way because of the bone marrow transplant.

Chloe’s mother Nicki  said: “As a child Chloe had vomited and had swelling of her face when she was given Penicillin and her GP had advised us that she was allergic to it so we raised concerns with staff once we found out she was being treated with a form of this drug.

“We had previously discussed the penicillin allergy prior to Chloe’s admission to hospital and were reassured that penicillin would not be used.

“Over two weeks after the operation her condition got worse and we were absolutely heartbroken at her death. We didn’t know at the time what had gone wrong and why Chloe died and for a long time we thought it was to do with the penicillin – if only someone from the hospital had taken the time to explain things to us we wouldn’t have had so many doubts.

“We have been in the dark for so long about how she died and had many questions about her care.

“Although the inquest has gone some way to giving us answers nothing will ever bring Chloe back and I hope the trust learns lessons from their failure to communicate with us during this difficult period so that in future other parents and families are treated with more respect.”

A post-mortem was conducted and concluded that the cause of Chloe’s death on 25 February 2011 was ‘engraftment syndrome’ which is a rare condition where the body suffers an exaggerated reaction to the donor operation.