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Woman Died From Overdose During Procedure Performed Against Family’s Request

Inquest Held Into Patient's Death


Law firm Irwin Mitchell is calling for the NHS to learn lessons after an elderly woman died when doctors gave her an anaesthetic overdose – while they were performing a procedure her family had asked  not to be carried out.

Margaret Morley, from Batley, died aged 71 on 27 November 2008 after doctors at Dewsbury & District Hospital gave her an overdose of local anaesthetic while performing a bronchoscopy – a technique to check the airways and lungs.

Doctors at the hospital carried out the procedure to try and remove a blockage from Mrs Morley’s lung, even though her family had requested that the hospital did not perform the procedure so that she would be allowed to die in peace.

The family’s solicitors, medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell, are now calling for the hospital to learn from its mistakes and implement procedures to stop a similar tragedy happening again.

At an inquest at Bradford Coroner’s Court on Friday 11 February 2011, a 10 person jury returned a verdict of accidental death to which neglect contributed.

Ian Murray, a medical law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office, represented the family at the inquest. He said: “Mrs Morley was extremely ill and it was clear that she would have died within weeks regardless of the operation. Her family were keen for her to be allowed to die peacefully with those closest to her around her.

“The hospital ignored those wishes and compounded their mistake by miscalculating the level of the local anaesthetic Mrs Morley could handle, which ultimately led to her dying in theatre.

“Patient wellbeing and safety must be the utmost priority for the NHS at all times, and we welcome the hospital’s decision to conduct its own investigation.

“This was a simple error which could and should easily have been avoided. It is vital that an investigation establishes why the family’s wishes were ignored and why Mrs Morley was given such a high level of the local anaesthetic.

“Lessons must be learnt from these mistakes. We have repeatedly called for improvements in safety standards and will continue to do so until errors like these no longer happen.”

Mrs Morley had been admitted to the hospital complaining of shortness of breath three weeks prior to her death, and was suffering from a collapsed lung. An initial bronchoscopy was performed on Mrs Morley but this was unsuccessful in clearing a blockage from her lungs.

After this procedure Mrs Morley’s family informed the hospital that they did not want a second procedure to be carried out as they were concerned about her frail state and knew that she wished to be able to die with her family around her.

Despite this, without the family’s knowledge, doctors at the hospital performed a second bronchoscopy the following day during which Mrs Morley died when she was given a toxic level of the anaesthetic.

Jackie Hussain, Mrs Morley’s daughter, said: “Our whole family is devastated by the circumstances surrounding my mother’s death.

“As a Catholic it was extremely important for her to have the Last Rites and she wanted to die peacefully with all of the family around her, but because of the hospital’s decision to carry out the second bronchoscopy this opportunity was taken away from her.

“We all knew she was extremely ill and because of this we did not want her to have to go through the pain and stress of a second procedure.

“We are extremely disappointed that this was allowed to go ahead without our permission and are concerned and disappointed about the level of care she received throughout her time at the hospital. We are pleased that the hospital is now carrying out an investigation but feel the very least we deserve is an apology.”