Following the tragic death of Mrs Terri Bell at St Thomas’ Hospital on 16 December 2020, an associate from Russell-Cooke represented her family in a three day inquest into her death, at North Kent Coroner’s Court.
The inquest took place remotely over a period of three days, with 11 witnesses, 10 of whom attended remotely. However, Mrs Bell’s husband gave his evidence live from the Coroner’s court room.
The facts of the case
In the case of Terri Bell, who was 42 years old at her death, evidence was heard in relation to a hernia surgery on 25 November 2020; the pre-operative assessment for that surgery; her subsequent deterioration and management during the week following surgery; an emergency surgery at Darent Valley Hospital following the rupture of an aneurysm on 2 December 2020; transfer to St Thomas’ Hospital; further emergency surgery at St Thomas’ Hospital, and Mrs Bell’s deterioration and death on 16 December 2020.
Evidence was provided by Mr Bell as well as by clinicians involved in each of the surgeries, These included a radiologist who reported on scans, a professor of clinical histopathology who performed the post mortem, and the author of a serious incident report focusing on treatment at Darent Valley Hospital.
The issues were described by those giving evidence as extremely complex given the identification and rupture of multiple aneurysms in and around the spleen, liver and stomach. The appearance of multiple aneurysms in that area was described by one surgeon as “exquisitely rare.”
The Coroner’s conclusion
The Coroner provided a narrative conclusion which mentioned the hernia surgery, the ruptured aneurysms and the transfer to St Thomas’ Hospital and stated that it was not possible to establish whether the aneurysms were a result of blood or connective tissue disorders.
Russell-Cooke partner Janice Gardner who represents the family in an ongoing clinical negligence claim commented: “Our hearts are with the family of Mrs Bell following the inquest into their wife and mother’s death. Mr Bell gave evidence about his concerns for the hernia surgery due to his wife’s pre-existing complications with heavy bleeding, DVT and abdominal adhesions.
“Whilst we were pleased to see that the serious incident report has recommended the development of processes or pathways for patients with a significant history of bleeding or findings of aneurysms, these have yet to be put in place.”
Janice Gardner, as well as other members of Russell-Cooke's personal injury and clinical negligence team, regularly represent families of the deceased person at inquests, ensuring that their views are properly represented.