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Hospital questions death case X-rays

A hospital that failed to detect the multiple fractures which caused a grandmother's death may challenge expert claims that some of the injuries were visible on her X-ray, an inquest hearing has been told.

Enniskillen pensioner Elizabeth McTeggart (71) died in her own bed four days after being sent home from the town's Erne hospital after being admitted following a road accident.

She had sustained 17 fractures to her ribs and sternum but doctors did not diagnose those injuries when she was examined in A&E.

A GP subsequently called out to her home after she complained of severe pain and difficulty breathing prescribed additional medication but she was not re-admitted to hospital.

During criminal proceedings over the April 2009 car crash, Northern Ireland's state pathologist Jack Crane, who performed an autopsy on Mrs McTeggart, said her injuries, though severe, were survivable if she had received the appropriate treatment.

In the trial, it also emerged that a consultant radiologist from Oxford, Dr Eugene McNally, who was commissioned to independently examine the X-rays taken in the Erne hospital, claimed that some of the injuries were visible.

At Mrs McTeggart's preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast yesterday, a lawyer for the Western Trust indicated that it would be seeking another expert to review Dr McNally's five-page report.

David Sharpe told coroner Brian Sherrard that it was "usual to seek independent advice" on such reports.

The full inquest had been set to get under way in Enniskillen yesterday , but was postponed due to a number of unresolved legal issues, including whether Dr McNally's report for the criminal case should be released to those involved in the inquest.

That matter was addressed at the preliminary hearing in Mays Chambers when Mr Sherrard ruled that the findings should be distributed to the interested parties.

He said it was his objective to make proceedings as open as possible.

"The report [Dr McNally's] indicated that the X-ray showed fractures and the pathologist said the injuries were treatable," he said.

Dr McNally is due to appear at the inquest via video link from England but Mr Sharpe raised concerns whether that would enable detailed discussions and examinations of X-rays.

He suggested that the consultant could be invited to appear in person when the hearing does get under way.

Mr Sherrard noted the request and said he would correspond with the legal representatives before setting a new start date for the full inquest hearing.

Belfast Telegraph