Parents’ tragedy as autistic son found dead in Haringey care home
PUBLISHED: 18:05 09 January 2012 | UPDATED: 18:10 09 January 2012
The parents of an autistic boy who died suddenly in care have spoken of being “let down” by the multiple doctors and services who failed to prevent the tragedy.
Harry Horne-Roberts was just 20-years-old when he died two years after moving into Hillgreen Care home in Haringey.
There had been no indication that anything was wrong and just days before his death he went walking with his parents in Epping Forest and was his usual bouncy self.
But on December 16, 2009 at 7am he was found face down on his bedroom floor and pronounced dead at 10.30am.
Coroner Dr Andrew Walker of Barnet Coroner’s Court ruled the 22-stone teenager’s death was due to a heart attack linked to obesity at an inquest on Wednesday last week (January 4).
But Harry’s parents, Jennifer Horne-Roberts and Keith Roberts, claimed strong anti-psychotic drugs he was given without their knowledge were responsible.
They claim his three stone weight gain during 15 months in care was due to the drug chloropromazine and that the boisterous 6t-teen was given the drugs without their knowledge.
Before he moved to the care home, Harry had been exuberant and regularly took part in sports and outings.
His parents took the “heartbreaking” step to put Harry into care to increase his independence, but claimed during the inquest they were instead locked out of his treatment with “catastrophic consequences”.
They only learned that he was on the drug when a carer let the information slip in March 2009 and then wrote four letters to Harry’s psychiatrist without receiving a reply.
During the inquest psychiatrist Dr Sujeet Jaydeokar said: “There was a breakdown of communications.”
He added: “With hindsight it would have been better if we had copied you into the letters. We have now changed our practice and now copy all letters to family members.”
Haringey Mental Health Trust acknowledged its failure to implement a dietician-led weight loss programme.
The trust has now implemented new processes to improve the outcome for obese patients with learning disabilities.
Coroner Mr Walker said in a narrative verdict: “What he [Harry] needed was a programme to reduce his morbid obesity. If he had that, he might have had a chance.
“The absence of a dietician-led program to reduce his morbid obesity caused his death.”
His parents, who are both in their 60s and live in Cheverton Road near Archway, plan to publish a book telling the story of Harry’s inquest and to exhibit his films and artwork to keep his memory alive.
His mother, a barrister, said after the inquest: “We feel completely let down by the inadequate policies in place. No-one took responsibility.
“We continue to be devastated by the loss of our darling boy Harry. He was and always will remain our most beloved, beautiful son.” Mrs Horne-Roberts continues to campaign for the withdrawal of the combined MMR vaccine, which she believes caused Harry’s autism.