Coroner returns narrative verdict at inquest into the death of Amy Bottomley
John Schmitt was appointed pro bono by the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) to represent the family of Amy Bottomley at her inquest on 25th-26th February. Her family had serious concerns about the quality of care she had received at Scarborough Hospital and had sought representation through AvMA in order that, as an interested party, their concerns could be thoroughly explored at her inquest.
Mrs Bottomley, 82, had been admitted to Scarborough Hospital in the early hours of 12th June 2014 suffering from abdominal pain with a background history of Parkinson’s disease and dementia. She was bedbound and could communicate only to a very limited extent. Her children also gave evidence that her arms were in a fixed, contracted position across her chest and had been in this way for 3 years; this was initially noted by the paramedic who accompanied Mrs Bottomley to hospital and, when she was admitted, it was subsequently observed by a range of the medical staff treating her.
However, the family were horrified to notice on 16th June 2014 that her right arm was no longer contracted but bruised, swollen and, for the first time in 3 years, straightened. They had no idea how this had occurred and no-one had informed them of any injury suffered by her since she had been admitted. After the family had demanded an X-ray, it revealed that her right humerus had been fractured. Mrs Bottomley then tragically died in hospital on 6th July 2014.
24 witnesses gave oral evidence at Scarborough Town Hall. The evidence was focused initially on determining the cause of death. The Coroner accepted the evidence of Dr Egan, an experienced pathologist, who found that the fracture to the right arm was part of the cause of Mrs Bottomley’s death because of the physiological strain it exerted on her immunity.
Then the nurses and doctors who had responsibility for Mrs Bottomley’s care were questioned. The Coroner’s factual findings noted that a bruise on Mrs Bottomley’s arm was first noticed by nurses on 13th June 2014 but no action was taken to escalate it. A number of healthcare assistants and nurses saw the bruising on her arm but no-one reported the injury to a doctor until 16th June 2014; Emma Day from the Hospital Trust in her evidence acknowledged that it should have been escalated promptly. Moreover, the arm was only X-rayed on 17th June 2014 because of the concern expressed by the family.
In terms of the cause of the fracture, the Coroner considered that it was probable that it occurred on the afternoon of 12th June 2014 when bloods were taken from Mrs Bottomley by a doctor in the presence of a nurse. Those two professionals gave contradictory evidence about what had occurred, and the Coroner found that the doctor had been economical with the truth about that incident.
Accordingly, the Coroner’s narrative conclusion included that at some point between 12th and 13th June 2014 whilst undergoing treatment Mrs Bottomley’s right humerus was fractured by a member of the hospital staff.
Barristers from 9 Gough Chambers regularly provide assistance to bereaved families on a pro bono basis. For more information please contact our clerks.