Belfast Telegraph

Autistic boy's medication driven obesity factor in death following op

David-Lee Clark’s medication for autism also made him obese
David-Lee Clark’s medication for autism also made him obese

By Gillian Halliday

A Lisburn woman has called for improved medical services for autistic children following a coroner's ruling into her son's death yesterday.

Lee Clark made the plea after a doctor was criticised for his medical notes at an inquest into her son David-Lee at Laganside Courthouse.

The 10-year-old, affectionately known as 'Dee-Dee', passed away on New Year's Day 2015 as the result of complications from bowel surgery.

He had been admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children to undergo the procedure in December.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan ruled that the youngster, who was described as a "brave fighter", died as the result of substantial blood loss due to a severe infection.

He added that the boy had been unfortunate to develop a bowel obstruction.

He also cited David-Lee's obesity as a contributing factor in the death.

Mr McGurgan offered his condolences, along with the Belfast Health Trust, to Ms Clark, who broke down after proceedings were concluded.

In a statement issued via her solicitor, she stressed David-Lee's bowel difficulties were directly linked to his autism.

She added that her son's size was the result of medication that had been prescribed to manage his autism.

"Obesity was not the cause of my son's death. Autistic children often have bowel problems. Autistic children often have severe behavioural problems," the 39-year-old said.

Referring to the specific medication that David-Lee used, she said it helped her son be a "lovely, bright, bouncy boy", but as a side-effect resulted in "massive weight gain, in the region of two-to-three stones".

This consequently presented an increased risk for David-Lee during bowel surgery, she explained.

"It is a hellish choice for any parent to make. You cannot have both," she said.

"Either your child is at an increased risk of infection or your child has a good quality of life.

"I chose to give Dee-Dee the best life possible."

The inquest heard that following his initial surgery David-Lee suffered from a fever brought on by an infection and appropriate treatment was given by staff.

Mr McGurgan also determined that a decision by medical staff not to carry out a blood test prior to David-Lee's final procedure would not have prevented the schoolboy's death.

He explained that if the decision had of been taken, the "sequence of events may have been different, but on the balance of probability, it did not alter the outcome".

Medical staff as a whole were determined to have "acted appropriately", but one, Dr Damian Maguire, was criticised for failing to note the "substantial loss of blood" in post-surgery medical notes.

This omission, added Mr McGurgan, who described Dr Maguire as an "unconvincing witness", was "inexcusable".

But it also did "not have any impact" on the outcome. The Coroner also criticised the doctor for giving out "mixed messages" to David-Lee's family in relation to the 10-year-old's condition.

Following the ruling, Ms Clark said that although nothing now could be done to bring her son back, she hoped medical treatment for children like David-Lee would improve as a result.

"I just hope his case, in which he fought so hard, can have a positive and long-lasting impact," she added.

Belfast Telegraph

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