Widow wins 'cause of death' battle
Published 31/03/2008 | 11:22
The term "hospital acquired infection" was included on a death certificate in Northern Ireland for the first time in 2006.
After hearing evidence from medical experts for six days, it took a jury at the inquest of 43-year-old Brendan McDowell four hours to find that he died from multiple organ failure brought on by an infection he picked up after he was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Mr McDowell, a digger operator, died at the Royal Victoria Hospital in February 2004 - three months after surgery to insert a metal rod in his spine following an accident at work.
The jury also found that the drugs given to the father-of-two to combat an MRSA infection also played a role in his death.
During the inquest, it emerged that Mr McDowell, from Mullartown Heights in Annalong, was diagnosed with the MRSA superbug after having his first operation.
The court heard that doctors later discovered that he was suffering from a second infection at the intravenous line being used to administer antibiotics.
It also emerged that Mr McDowell was also diagnosed with nosocomial pneumonia, meaning the infection was hospital-acquired, and that it was also suspected that he was suffering from a urinary tract infection shortly after his admission to the Royal on December 9, 2003.
The findings of an inquest signalled the end of a 31-month battle by Mr McDowell's widow, Ann, to have the official cause of death altered to include the 'hospital-acquired' clause.
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs McDowell insisted that there must be no cover-up of MRSA deaths in hospitals.
"[The] finding is a truly historic one for a health system that continues to deny that it is responsible for the deaths of patients in its hospitals," she said.
"I believe there was a steadfast refusal by the Royal to face up to its responsibilities for what it had caused. Unless something is done more people are going to die."