THE family of Coventry mum-of-three Deborah O’Hara who were denied the truth after she died from botched cancer surgery at University Hospital say some questions remain ‘unanswered’ following an inquest ruling of death by ‘misadventure’.
The family’s representatives are also unhappy their legal costs in pursuing the truth are not being paid by University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW) – despite the trust itself being represented by a barrister using taxpayers’ money.
It is also in spite of the trust’s belated admission of liability which we reported last week, and the inquest ruling which acknowledged the 45-year-old Chapelfields mum’s death was caused by surgical errors in June last year.
Vital bloody supply from arteries to her liver and bowel had been cut off in a procedure to remove Mrs O’Hara’s kidney and a large tumour on it.
Husband Andrew O’Hara also said he is ‘disappointed’ that consultant urologist Anthony Blacker had claimed at the inquest he did not know how blood supply from a main artery came to be cut.
As we reported, the family had not been informed of the surgical errors – outlined in an internal investigation report – until after a whistleblower alerted the BBC.
The inquest also heard the bursting of the tumour during surgery had not been recorded in notes.
Mr O’Hara said after the inquest: “I have learned today that people at the trust knew about what had happened by the time of the second meeting but no information was shared with me until I received a letter at the end of September.
“Even then, they did not make it clear that Deb’s arteries had been cut as a result of a surgical error and they did not provide me with a copy of the investigation report.
“The trust has not been able to explain how her arteries came to be cut and I needed to have legal representation at the inquest to try and find out what happened.
“Without the representation I would not have been able to understand some of the medical jargon and would struggle to ask the right questions.
“I am still not clear as to how or why the arteries were divided during surgery and I am disappointed that Mr Blacker does not fully accept that he damaged both arteries even though that is what the evidence suggests.
“It has been a long 18 months wait since Deb’s death to have the inquest, but I am glad the children and I now know a little bit more about what happened to our beloved wife and mother, although there are still several questions remain unanswered.
“I should like to take this opportunity to urge members of the medical profession, regardless of position, to be mindful of the suffering and anguish they may cause if they are not truthful about what happened when things go wrong.
“I would also encourage anyone who may have doubts or concerns regarding the care provided to their loved ones to seek the truth, no matter how long it may take.”
He added he ‘hoped’ lessons would be learned.
Surgery took six hours – twice as long as expected – and was complicated by significant bleeding which was difficult to stem.
The tumour was attached to the pancreas and diaphragm where holes developed, and Mr Blacker summoned the assistance of a consultant hepatobiliary surgeon, Mr S Khan.
The later internal investigation report also noted contributory factors included a lack of collaborative planning with other surgical specialists likely to be required, says Mr O’Hara’s lawyer at Birmingham-based Access Legal Solicitors.
Solicitor Phil Barnes, a clinical negligence expert, said the trust’s solicitors had confirmed it would not cover the costs of Mr O’Hara’s legal representation at the inquest into his wife’s death because it had admitted liability.
The inquest was heard last week at Coventry Magistrates Court by assistant coroner, Emma Whitting.
Coroner Sean McGovern, without an inquest, had initially signed a death certificate which failed to account for why a loss of bloody supply to the liver and bowel was the cause of death.