Doctors cleared after woman’s surgery death

DOCTORS were not to blame for the death of a frail elderly woman after carrying out what proved to be an unnecessary operation at Eastbourne’s hospital, a coroner’s court ruled.

Surgeons operated on 84-year-old Enid Hay at Eastbourne District General Hospital to remove what they mistakenly believed was a cancerous lump but proved to be an abnormal tissue growth.

Despite a smooth operation, Mrs Hay, who also suffered from heart problems, never regained consciousness and died following a second cardiac arrest.

Coroner Alan Craze ruled Mrs Hay died of natural causes, at Eastbourne Coroner’s Court on December 16.

Hamish Dunlop, acting on behalf the family, said, “There is an alternative of accidental death if you take the view that had the operation not taken place she would have survived for some considerable time.

“And it was the incident of the operation itself that gave rise to factors for the cardiac arrest to cause her death.”

Coroner Alan Craze said, “For an accidental death in a hospital setting, you really have to recognise something that has gone horribly wrong.”

Mrs Hay, of Newman Way, Henfield, had complained of symptoms synonymous with bowel cancer and doctors at Kent and Sussex Hospital carried out two separate tests, which proved inconclusive.

Clinicians decided to operate and Mrs Hay was moved to the DGH for surgery on October 1, 2009. Mrs Hay, widow of postman Ronald and mother to Pamela Brown, died on October 15, 2009.

Michael Saunders, consultant surgeon, said, “There was enough evidence gathered together that, rather than going through more tests, we decided to go ahead. And tests do not go without risks.”

Pathologist Dr Jane Mercer was asked if surgery killed Mrs Hay. She said, “No-one can say that with absolute certainty with an 84-year-old lady. But there is no reason to believe she would have died that October.

“She could have lived months more, even years more. But it’s an opinion. But the operation did not cause her death directly.”

Mr Craze added, “This was a shock for you, when a death is unexpected after major surgery - and especially after what you may have thought was routine.”