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Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death of Kirsty Rutherford Thompson [2011] FAI 35


In terms of section 6(1)(a) of the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976, the Sheriff found that Kirsty Rutherford Thompson (born 18th June 1987) died on 17th March 2001, aged 13, having been taken by ambulance to the Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow and pronounced dead at 6.56 am. In terms of section 6(1)(b), the cause of death was (a) peritonitis, due to a (b) perforated diverticulum, due to a (c) intestinal obstruction, due to an (d) internal hernia. In terms of section 6(1)(c) the reasonable precaution that might have prevented the death was for a doctor to take into account current physical observations readily available relating to the patient before deciding upon her discharge from hospital. Several relevant facts were set out in terms of section 6(1)(e).

The deceased became unwell on 8th March 2001, suffering from abdominal pain and vomiting. On 9th March, her GP diagnosed her with a viral gastro-intestinal infection. She was then taken to Glasgow Emergency Medical Services, where she was diagnosed with haematemesis and transferred to the Victoria Infirmary. She was ultimately diagnosed with oesophagitis and on 14th March she was discharged from hospital with medication. On returning home, she continued to feel unwell and on 16th March, she was examined by a doctor at home. She then collapsed at around 5.45am on 17th March. Her father tried to revive her with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage and an ambulance was called. However, her pulse had stopped by the time paramedics arrived and she was pronounced dead at 6.56am at the Victoria Infirmary.

Having heard evidence, the Sheriff noted that no criticism could be levelled at the standard of care Kirsty received while in hospital, nor of her medical examination at home. It was also noted that she had a very rare congenital condition which caused the bowel to herniate and become obstructed.

The Sheriff found that Kirsty had been discharged from hospital prematurely and that delaying her discharge may have led to surgical intervention, which would have saved her life. There were a number of indicators during her period in hospital that, if taken into account, may have led to the diagnosis of her underlying condition and should have prevented her discharge from hospital. However, the Sheriff declined to find that there was a systemic failure in terms of section 6(1)(d).