Boy, 9, died ‘after 11 opportunities to save him were missed’ – including at the Royal Free
PUBLISHED: 17:35 15 March 2017 | UPDATED: 08:19 16 March 2017
There were 11 missed opportunities to save a nine-year-old chess champion who died of chronic asthma after being told he was “wasting time” at the Royal Free, an inquest has been told.
Michael Uriely, from St John’s Wood, was taken to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead twice in the days before his death because he was suffering from coughing and vomiting fits that left him struggling to breathe.
He ultimately died on August 25, 2015 – five days after being discharged from the hospital for the second time.
Michael’s mother Ayelet Uriely said in a statement that she was “devastated beyond words” about the loss of her son, who she described as “highly gifted”.
Westminster Coroner’s Court heard there were chances to treat Michael in the months before his death when he was seen by NHS GPs and private doctors.
While dealing with Mrs Uriely’s statement, Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said: “There was 11 opportunities within seven months to appropriately test, diagnose and treat him.”
The inquest heard Mrs Uriely “felt strongly” her son was denied basic care. As early as February that year, Mrs Uriely asked a doctor about the chances of her son dying.
Mrs Uriely said Michael’s father Roy asked the doctor about “the likelihood of death”.
She said he responded to her by saying: “What are you talking about?” She told the inquest he said that Michael was “not in this category”.
Mrs Uriely told the inquest she made asked for Michael to be sent to an asthma clinic and Great Ormond Street Hospital, but these requests were not granted.
Michael was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital on August 18 and discharged at 8pm the same day. He was readmitted on August 19 and sent home again the following day.
On August 18, Mrs Uriely said she thought he was having his worst ever asthma attack.
But she said she was told: “You don’t really need to be here. You should go home.”
Mrs Uriely said they were told “something like we were wasting their time”, and that Michael would grow out of asthma.
He was brought back to the hospital in the early hours of August 19, but by this stage was having violent bouts of vomiting and bloated chest.
The inquest heard he was told he was “hysterical” and not having an asthma attack.
Mrs Uriely was told he was being discharged that afternoon but she said she told staff: “I am scared my son will die tonight”. She also said Michael himself said he was “afraid to die”.
She told the inquest: “I said: ‘I’d never let anything bad happen to you.’”
She said she spoke to staff about the “worst case scenario” but was told she was on a “wild goose chase”.
There was no improvement in Michael’s condition on August 21, the inquest heard.
Mrs Uriely made an appointment with Dr Aisha Laskor, believing that her son had been prematurely and inappropriately discharged from hospital.
The inquest heard that Dr Laskor expressed shock that the hospital had failed to treat Michael – but the two women disagree about what was said during the appointment.
Dr Laskor said she was “concerned enough to consider calling for an ambulance”, but decided not to send him to hospital.
She said her “gut instinct” was to send him back to hospital, but she said Mrs Uriely told her he was better since he was discharged - something Mrs Uriely says is untrue.
The inquest also heard from Dr Mark Levy, who has been a GP for 40 years and has published more than 140 papers on asthma. He said Michael’s asthma was “poorly controlled” in the last year of his life.
Dr Levy also said children with severe asthma “should be seen by a respiratory specialist”.
Meanwhile, Dr Michael Greenberg, from Wellington Outpatients Centre in Golders Green, was asked if he had declined Mrs Uriely’s request to be referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
He said he does not recall that conversation, and added: “I would have happily made those referrals.”
Asked if he could remember having a conversation with Mrs Uriely in February about the likelihood of death, Dr Greenberg said: “No, I don’t remember that conversation.”
The inquest also heard from paediatrician Dr Neil Thompson who had seen Michael at the Royal Free Hospital on August 18.
He denied using the word “hysterical” to describe the child, and asked if he could recall Mrs Uriely “begging” not to be left to deal with Michael’s cough alone, he said he could not.
The court heard Dr Thompson thought Michael’s cough was likely to be “viral”, and he said: “He had no wheeze. He had good air entry.” He did add he knew Michael was having “an exacerbation” in his asthma.
The inquest continues at 9.30am on Thursday.
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