Inquest Representation for Client when Cause of Death was Unclear

07 March 2019

Our client's husband passed away in hospital after suffering with complex medical issues. The death was reported to the coroner who ordered a post-mortem and an inquest into the death. Doctors were unable to agree on the cause of death, there were missing test results and evidence was disclosed without sufficient time for it to be reviewed before the inquest.

Our Coroner and Inquest Solicitors were instructed to provide legal support, advice and representation throughout the inquest.

Client Situation

Mrs W contacted us last year in relation to the death of her late Husband, Mr W who had died aged 48 years old. He had a complex medical history, including an auto immune deficiency and lymphoma. His spleen had been removed in 2015 and thereafter Mr W seemed to be doing well.

In the summer of 2017, Mr W had been working in a pond in his garden when he began feeling ill. Over the next few days there was no improvement and he was admitted to hospital suffering with lethargy, shortness of breath, night sweats and dark urine. Whilst in hospital, Mr W's condition deteriorated. He was investigated for a possible relapse of his lymphoma, a possible blood disorder and a number of possible infectious diseases (which could have been contracted from working in the pond).

Despite these investigations, his treating doctors were unable to identify the actual cause of his illness. His condition deteriorated and he suffered a cardiac arrest. He sadly passed away in hospital, 5 days after he was admitted.

Following his death, it was established that Mr W had been suffering with Epstein-Barr virus and parvovirus.

The Inquest

The death was reported to the Coroner who ordered a post-mortem and an Inquest. The Coroner obtained witness statements and reports from:

  • a Consultant Haematologist
  • 2 Consultant Microbiologists
  • a Pathologist
  • a Consultant Neuropathologist

Unfortunately, the various statements and reports were at odds with each other as to the cause of Mr W's death.

To further complicate matters, copies of the reports and statements were only disclosed to Mrs W 3 working days before the Inquest. Copies of the medical records and post-mortem report were only provided 1 working day before the Inquest. Finally, the Inquest hearing was listed to last for 2 hours and some of the doctors were not due to attend, despite the cause of death not being agreed ahead of the Inquest.

How We Helped

Co-op Legal Services were able to advise Mrs W about the inquest process and represent her and her interests throughout this process and at the inquest hearing. In doing so, Co-op Legal Services advised that there were a number of issues that should be raised with the Coroner:

  • as the doctors could not agree on Mr W's cause of death, it was essential that they all attend the Inquest hearing and give evidence
  • the Inquest hearing needed to be listed for at least a full day
  • the late disclosure of the coroner's evidence meant that there was insufficient time for a complete review of the evidence
  • there were missing test results within the copy medical records

The Outcome

Our Coroner & Inquest Solicitors attended the initial Inquest hearing, along with a barrister, and secured an adjournment and a future full day listing for the hearing. We also arranged for all of the doctors to attend this Inquest hearing.

We also obtained copies of the missing test results, ensuring that there was sufficient time to review the evidence and advise Mrs W and her family appropriately.

We arranged for a Barrister to attend the full day hearing and represent the family on the day. During this hearing, we raised a number of issues and posed relevant questions. By the end of the Inquest, the doctors were able to agree on the cause of death.

Client Testimonial

"No-one wants to be in the position of having to attend an inquest of a loved one, especially alone. Unfortunately, I recently found myself in such a predicament and with the help and support of Daniel and his team at Co-op Legal I was able to face this daunting task head on.

"Co-op Legal Services made the experience far more bearable, were extremely supportive in their approach to handling the inquest and were very aware of the sensitive nature of the issue. They were very knowledgeable with the whole inquest etiquette and how to move proceedings forward, ensuring that I was always kept updated on the proceedings. Their professionalism continued throughout the actual inquest itself as they worked tirelessly to ensure that no stone was left unturned and that all possible avenues of exploration were dealt with swiftly and professionally.

"It was a pleasure to work with Daniel under such difficult circumstances, but I certainly got value for money. I would certainly not hesitate to recommend the co-op Legal team to anyone needing help and support with their loved ones' inquest." R.W., Greater Manchester

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