herald

Wednesday 28 June 2017

'Learn lessons of our father's death so he won't have died in vain', say distraught family

The children of Timothy Fleming, Aishling, Caroline, Catherine and
Jeremiah, at Dublin Coroner’s Court
The children of Timothy Fleming, Aishling, Caroline, Catherine and Jeremiah, at Dublin Coroner’s Court

The four children of a man who died on an operating table in a Dublin hospital are to meet with hospital staff to explore ways of improving care for patients.

Timothy Fleming's daughter, Caroline, said they hoped lives will be saved by the lessons learned from his death.

Mr Fleming (69), an Irishman living in England, died after a tear in the lining of his aorta led to a rupture of the artery on February 6, 2015.

His death was the result of "medical misadventure", a jury found at his inquest yesterday.

"We welcome the invitation of Tallaght Hospital to meet with them to explore what can be learned from our father's death," Caroline said afterwards.

"The lessons came at a huge cost to our family but he will not have died in vain."

Regret

A lawyer for Tallaght Hospital offered his family the hospital's "sincere regret" for aspects of the care provided to him.

Mr Fleming was admitted suffering from severe abdominal pain the day before he died.

The two-day inquest at Dublin Coroner's Court heard that Mr Fleming, from Fossa, Killarney, was living in Middlesex and had travelled to Dublin for a meeting.

He began experiencing severe pain and was taken by ambulance to Tallaght Hospital.

The court heard he was seen by a number of doctors during the course of the afternoon and evening, and received morphine to relieve his pain.

Doctors gave evidence that a number of possible causes were explored, but there was no definite diagnosis on that date.

An "aortic dissection", which is a tear within the lining of the aorta - a very rare condition - was just one of many possible explanations considered.

However, Mr Fleming was discharged from the hospital at 2.30am after doctors held telephone conversations with on-call surgical registrar Dr Donal O'Connor.

Senior house doctor Alaa Mustafa said the surgeon told him that it appeared to be a case of gastritis.

He said, as such, the wish of the patient to leave the hospital and return home to the UK to receive follow-up treatment should be granted.

Mr Fleming suffered severe pain shortly after leaving the hospital and was re-admitted at 4am. An ultrasound scan showed signs of a tear within the aorta, as did an X-ray.

Conflicting recollections were given to the inquest by the doctors who attended Mr Fleming and surgeon Dr O'Connor.

Dr O'Connor arrived at the hospital shortly before 6am.

Resuscitated

Mr Fleming's vital signs dramatically worsened when he was undergoing a CT scan and he had to be resuscitated.

Specialists at the hospital did not have the skills to carry out a specialised surgical procedure, so he was transferred to St James's Hospital with a garda escort.

When he was administered an anaesthetic there, he suffered a rupture of the artery and a cardiac arrest.

His aorta was quickly repaired while surgeons tried to resuscitate him, but he died on the operating table.

The jury confirmed the death was the result of the tear and subsequent rupture of the aorta.

The verdict does not apportion blame.

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