Widow Speaks Of Heartache After Inquest Into Husband’s Death Finds Bowel Perforation As Cause

Medical Law Experts Continue Family’s Battle For Answers

17.01.2013

The widow of a father-of-two who died of multi-organ failure after doctors mistakenly punctured his bowel during an operation, which she believes may not have been necessary, says she was ‘robbed of final precious time’ together as a family after an inquest yesterday (16 January) found it caused his death.

Alexander McLellan had a keyhole operation to remove an adrenal gland – a gland which produces hormones to help the kidney function – in September 2011 at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, after being diagnosed with bowel cancer which had spread throughout his body, including his liver and lungs.

But the former engineer died just over two weeks later, aged 63, of multi-organ failure because surgeons inadvertently perforated his bowel - a recognised risk with the operation - causing fatal poisonous fluids to leak into his body that went undiagnosed for two days.

His devastated wife Christine, from Eastergate, instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell and the firm is now working to help get further answers about whether the decision for Alexander to have surgery in the first place was the correct one, and whether the bowel perforation could have been recognised and treated sooner.

Assistant Deputy Coroner Dr David Skipp recorded a Narrative verdict at Chichester Coroner’s Court yesterday and said: “Mr McLellan was known to have metastatic disease as a result of cancer of the colon. He underwent a laparoscopic adrenalectomy on 26th September 2011. He subsequently developed intra-abdominal complications of a small bowel perforation which led to multi-organ failure and death.”

He also said he would be writing to the Trust to express concerns about some of the evidence he had heard, but did not identify what it would specifically refer to or if any recommendations would be made.

Leena Savjani, a medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s London office represents Christine. She said: “It has been a very difficult 18 months for Alexander’s family as they have struggled to come to terms with the fact he has gone.

“Keyhole operations are recommended because they are generally less risky for a patient than open surgery, but bowel perforation is a known complication of the procedure.

“However, we have serious concerns about whether the operation should have gone ahead in the first place due to Alexander’s condition.. We also have concerns about whether the symptoms of the bowel perforation could have been recognised sooner to try and prevent the leak from causing fatal damage.

“We hope the Trust will work with us quickly to provide the McLellans with further answers about their loss so they can begin to come to terms with what happened and start to move forward with their lives.”

Christine, age 63, said: “We were heartbroken when Alexander was diagnosed with bowel cancer and knew how serious it was particularly once it had spread to other organs.

“The doctors debated whether to remove his adrenal gland because of how poorly he was after the cancer spread but the decision was made to go ahead, with us being told it would prolong his life.

“Alexander was responding excellently to chemotherapy, and had he been aware of the full risks of the surgery he would not have gone ahead.

“Instead he has been taken from us too soon, robbing the entire family of final precious time together and that has been very hard to come to terms with.

“The inquest has given us some answers about what went wrong, but we need to know if the decision for him to have the keyhole procedure in the first place was the right one and if more could have been done to recognise the bowel leak. Until then, we cannot move forward with our lives.”