'˜More tests might have saved my Charlie'
Four-year-old Charlie Logan Taylor succumbed to pneumonia in July 2016 following a long battle with neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer.
His mother Charlotte Marriott told Bolton Coroner’s Court how her requests to have his chest examined and a misdiagnosis of oral herpes contributed to his death.
But despite the family’s evidence, Coroner Tim Brennand ruled that Charlie’s death was due to a naturally occurring illness and the complications brought on by his cancer treatment.
At his inquest held at Bolton Coroner’s Court, Charlie’s mother Charlotte Marriott told the coroner that her requests for certain checks to be carried out on her son went unfulfilled, and she believed that this contributed to his untimely death.
Charlie was autistic and the court heard how the family believe that this may have also caused delays with early diagnosis, the cancer having been “established” by the time it was found.
But after coroner Timothy Brennand heard evidence from Charlotte as well as a number of medical professionals, he concluded that Charlie had died from a respiratory tract infection caused by a naturally occurring illness and complications from his cancer treatment.
Charlotte, accompanied by Charlie’s nan Veronica Marriott, listened as Mr Brennand questioned doctors about the weeks leading up to her son’s death in the early hours of July 13 after he became unresponsive at Veronica’s home at around 12.20am.
The court heard how Charlie had started to receive chemotherapy in 2015 after tumours were found in the base of his skull and next to the bottom of his spine.
After taking him to Leigh walk-in centre in January for a limp, Charlotte was told that a referral had been made to Wigan Infirmary, where Charlie was diagnosed with a viral infection.
But in August 2015, his left eye begun to droop and, after a visit to an eye specialist and an MRI scan, Charlotte was told that he had a tumour behind his eye,
“I think it could have been picked up a lot sooner, back in January,” said Charlotte.
“Because he had autism he was really hard to examine. The doctor was going to do an X-ray but Charlie couldn’t stay still, so instead of an X-ray they did an ultrasound. He had lots and lots of sores around his mouth. I was told it was a common side-effect of chemo but it went on for months and he couldn’t eat because his mouth was so sore.”
On July 7, less than a week before his death, Charlie weighed 14.3kg, less than the 16kg that he weighed just weeks before, and this weight had dropped to 12.05kg by the time of his post-mortem examination.
Charlotte added: “My thoughts are that if they had known it was herpes earlier and dealt with it he would have been on a feed and would have been stronger at the time of death.”
Pathologists at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital concluded that as well as suffering from bronchial pneumonia, Charlie was suffering from a stricture of the oesophagus: a condition which can be a side-effect of radiotherapy which he had just nine days before his death.
Dr Gauri Batra, who conducted the autopsy, said: “His oesophagus showed a stricture. There was clearly some pain being experienced by Charlie.”
On July 11, two days before his death, Charlotte took Charlie for an outpatient appointment with Dr Guy Makin, from Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in which a full blood count test was done. Charlotte also complained about a persistent cough that Charlie had and wanted his chest examined, but was told to return in six weeks.“The radiotherapy contributed to his death,” she said “He was too ill to have it in the first place.”
Dr Bernadette Brennan, who treated Charlie throughout the majority of his time at the hospital, was on annual leave when Charlie came in on July 11 but said that she agreed with the pathologists’ findings and that the radiotherapy was essential to Charlie’s recovery from the cancer.
Following three hours of evidence, Mr Brennand concluded that Charlie had died of a respiratory infection and that the incident was a “very sad concoction and a very clear tragedy.”
He said: “In relation to the possibility of misdiagnosis it is not necessary for me to make such findings.
“The court has been struck by a real sense of your dedication, love and the continued support you gave to Charlie. No child would have wanted for any better parental devotion.”