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Widower told wife failed by doctors 14 years ago will get an inquest soon

By Allan Preston

Published 09/09/2016

Let down: Robert Spratt
Let down: Robert Spratt

The widower of a Crossgar woman who died 14 years ago after taking part in a chemotherapy trial has been told he has waited long enough for answers.

Mother-of-five Joyce Spratt passed away from a severe bowel infection aged 53 in Belfast City Hospital on March 22, 2002.

She had been suffering from ovarian cancer and was one of 128 women taking part in a clinical trial for a new drug.

On March 20, she attended Downe Hospital complaining of abdominal pains. But she was misdiagnosed with appendicitis and then moved to the City Hospital's A&E department. However, the cancer unit was not informed on time and she died on March 22.

A post-mortem examination revealed that her chemotherapy had caused inflammation of the colon, which led to peritonitis.

The Attorney General has now ordered a new inquest after reviewing two previous reports into her death.

At a preliminary inquest hearing at Laganside Courts yesterday, Coroner Joe McCrisken told Mrs Spratt's widower, Robert, that he wanted to ensure he had to wait no longer.

"I'm looking at Mr Spratt - your wife died in 2002 (and) I've absolutely no intention in delaying this matter any further," said Mr McCrisken. "The new hearing is to centre on the events of March 19, 2002, when Mrs Spratt attended an oncology (cancer) appointment at the City Hospital... and the fact that some tests that had been turned out weren't followed up and Mrs Spratt was sent home".

Addressing the widower, he added that he was sure the family was keen for the authorities to "just get on with it".

"If you can," Mr Spratt replied, adding he understood if some witnesses were not available.

"There are some issues with (witness) listings but they're not insurmountable," said Mr McCrisken. "What I don't want to do, Mr Spratt, is put this off for another year trying to find people we can't find. I want to get the inquest listed on October 19 and 20 and get the matter aired.

"I don't think I'm doing you any favours if I adjourn this for another six months, eight months or a year."

Speaking afterwards, Mr Spratt said he did not want to comment before the new inquest.

In 2006 he rejected an apology from consultant oncologist Professor Patrick Johnston, who admitted that the system had failed Mrs Spratt.

The widower has also previously commented about the issues in his wife's treatment, saying: "I feel we've all been let down, especially Joyce."

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