Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us Click here for details »
Teen death inquest asks - could doctors have saved Amie?
10:14am Wednesday 18th September 2013 in Echo News
DOCTORS have been accused of failing to carry out simple checks which could have spotted a 15-year-old girl was suffering life-threatening brain damage.
Basildon Hospital doctors admitted not carrying out important tests on Amie Miller at a three day inquest into her death, at Chelmsford Coroner’s Court which started on Monday.
Amie, from Stanford-le-Hope died on November 19, 2008.
Amie, a promising Grays Convent High School pupil, had just finished her mock GCSE exams when she was taken into hospital after suffering headaches for seven days.
She was also vomiting and fitting when she was taken to Basildon’s A&E department on November 16.
She was given a CT scan, sedated and put on ventilation, butasecond scan on November 19 showedalarge amount of fluid around her brain.
She died from swelling on the brain.
Barristers working on behalf of Amie’s family said doctors failed to investigate properly why Amie’s brain was swollen and basic neurological tests, which include checking she could open her eyes and looking at her pupil size, would have shown her deteriorating condition.
Instead, doctors believed her condition was stabilising on November 17, which led to consultants ignoring her.
Doctors had decided Amie should undergo a lumbar puncture on November 19, to remove brain fluid via the spine for testing, to see if any bacteria was causing Amie’s condition.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Nawf Shareif said Amie could only have the procedure if her condition stabilised and she responded to neurological tests.
Otherwise, removing spinal fluid could create suction, pulling the brain down and causing further problems.
The inquest heard Dr David Low, the intensive care doctor on duty, told Dr Michel Sun Wai, that Amie was getting better.
Doctor Sun Wai said: “With hindsight the neurological observations should have been done. It wasn’t done because, to me,Ididn’t worry too much about Amie because I believed her to be a young girl getting better.
“I didn’t focus on the neurological observations at all. At that moment in time we were just waiting for the lumbar puncture to take place.Ididn’t need to interfere with the plan.
“I am not denying neurological observations would have helped with Amie’s condition.
“But the handover to me was that the patient was waking up and was getting better.”
Vikram Sachdeua, a solicitor questioning the doctor on behalf of Amie’s family, said: “If concern had been made before and after the lumbar puncture then her deterioration would have been picked up more quickly.
“In your mind that was the reason why you were not paying very conscious attention to her, because you had misinformation that her scan was normal.”
Doctors said neurological tests may not have shown problems straight away and it would have been difficult to check Amie’s condition via these tests because she had been sedated.
A jury of 11 members of the public are hearing evidence in the inquest, which is expected to last three days.
The case will hear evidence from 13 witnesses, all doctors and nurses at Basildon Hospital.
AMIE was given medication meant for adults while on an adult ward, because there was no space on the children’s ward.
The inquest heard Amie was given propofol, which has been proven to cause children to have high potassium and abnormal heart rhythms, while she was in Basildon Hospital’s adult intensive care unit.
Usually children at Basildon Hospital are transferred to paediatric intensive care units in London, but there wasashortage of beds at nearby units.
Doctors said they kept in contact regularly with a service, which provides paediatric intensive care in Great Ormond Street Hospital.
They defended their decision to prescribe the drug, instead of morphine, saying propofol provided a more reliable wake-up time.
Intensive care consultant, Michel Sun Wai, said: “I woulddo the same again in the same situation.
“When you stop infusing propofol, it wears off fairly quickly. I knew she needed to be woken up the next morning.
“We know we shouldn’t use it in very small children, but Amie was adult size and the amount was very minor.”
After the sedative wore off, Amie became agitated and pulled out the intravenous tube from her throat.
The decision was made to sedate her until 7am on November 18, which was when doctors concluded she was unresponsive and had become brain dead.