Family storms out of inquest

Karen Masters holding a photograph of her dad Derek and mum Margaret
Karen Masters holding a photograph of her dad Derek and mum Margaret

RELATIVES stormed out in disgust after a coroner failed to blame of a pensioner’s death on doctors following serious concerns over her treatment.

Despite an inquest hearing that 70-year-old Margaret Hesketh, of Poolstock, was misdiagnosed with terminal cancer – and health chiefs failed to inform her family that the supposed tumour later turned out to be benign - assistant coroner Rachel Griffin ruled that medical staff at Wigan Infirmary were not guilty of any wrongdoing.

We believe that we did all we could for Margaret Hesketh whilst she was under our care

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) spokesman

Instead, Ms Griffin decided her death was as a result of naturally occurring diseases.

But Mrs Hesketh’s family are still seeking answers as to why she was placed on a controversial palliative care programme and why they were not later informed that the grandmother-of-six did not have cancer after all.

Assistant coroner Rachel Griffin recorded that Mrs Hesketh died from bronchopneumonia, as a result of ischemic heart disease, fatty liver and chronic pressure sores.

As these were naturally occurring illnesses, it was deemed that her death - which occurred on November 25 last year - could not have been prevented.

But Mrs Hesketh’s family, led by daughter Karen Masters, say that she was “unlawfully killed” and doctors failed to treat her correctly. They were thrown into unnecessary confusion when a blood test revealed there were levels of cancer in her throat, lung and pelvis. Her family say that a MacMillan Nurse informed them that she had less than three months to live – something which the hospital has no records of.

But following further investigation on November 21, the tumour in her pelvis was found to be benign – but this was never communicated to the family.

Ms Griffin said: “It is disappointing that the family didn’t know about that meeting, as this is usual procedure.”

Mrs Masters also argues that doctors had placed Mrs Hesketh on end of life palliative care without full consultation and states that there are discrepancies with her medical records.

The 70-year-old former mill worker was admitted to Wigan Infirmary with a chest infection, malnutrition – due to loss of appetite – and pressure sores on October 28.

By October 31 her condition had deteriorated and under guidance from doctors, her family agreed that should she suffer a cardiac arrest, she should not be resuscitated. But she made a good recovery.

Mrs Masters said that it was at this point that palliative care was discussed – but medical records said the subject was broached two weeks later – on November 13.

On November 18 Mrs Hesketh had diarrhoea and her antibiotic treatment was stopped as it was feared that was the cause. Tests later revealed the antibiotics was not the reason,

But as she was on palliative care, it was felt there was no need to give her unwarranted medication, other than help treat her symptoms to make her more comfortable.

As Mrs Hesketh was suffering from malnutrition her family asked for a feeding tube in the later stages of her hospital stay, Ward manager Claire McGrath said that Mrs Hesketh ate a variety of foods and a feeding tube would distress her and eating orally was the best option.

From November 19 Mrs Hesketh was no longer conscious but Miss McGrath said: “Appropriate food and fluid was given.”

An investigation by police concluded there was no issues surrounding neglect, adding: “Doctors gave appropriate treatments and there was no breach of care. The malnutrition was a longstanding issue and not the ultimate cause of death.”

A spokesman for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) said: “We would like to offer our condolences to Mrs Hesketh’s family and reiterate our offer of a meeting with the family if they so wish.

“We believe that we did all we could for Margaret Hesketh whilst she was under our care.”