When Richard Handley’s family entrusted his care to Ipswich Hospital, they had no idea it would cost their beloved son his life. Now, a coroner has reported that ‘gross failures’ from the staff at the Suffolk county hospital contributed to his death. Richard Handley was from Lowestoft and had Downs Syndrome died from cardiac arrest in 2012. He was only 33 years old.
Chronic Constipation: A Deadly Symptom
Richard was suspected of suffering from Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition which causes chronic constipation. When the post-modern examination was done, they found gastric contents in his nasal passages and the bronchi, near the entrance of his lungs. It was likely that he choked on his vomit because of a bowel obstruction.
Richard, who lived with his parents until he was 19, was living in a care home. The inquest found that, due to lack of monitoring his disease, his abdomen became severely distended that he needed surgery to remove the build-up of feces.
Constipation: Complications and Remedies
Constipation itself is common and almost everyone experiences it at some point in your life. It only becomes a problem if it lasts more than a few days. Some common causes of constipation include  diet changes, not enough water or fiber intake, eating a lot of dairy products, or not being active. It can also be caused by things like stress, overusing laxatives, medication like antidepressants, antacids, IBS, underactive thyroid, and colon cancer.
Relieving constipation naturally is actually quite simple and can be done without any added stress . Try drinking 2-4 extra glasses of water a day, or try drinking some warm liquids in the morning like tea. Add high fiber fruits and vegetables in your diet like prunes, and try a heart bran cereal in the morning. Exercise also helps as it gets the muscles in your intestines working, and of course, don’t ignore the urge to poop.
How Could Richard’s Caregivers Let His Symptoms Go Unnoticed?
Since Richard was living at a care home, his diet and bowel movements were under careful scrutiny. But in 2010, unbeknownst to his family, the status of the care home changed and those instructions about dealing with Richard’s conditions were lost and he developed severe constipation.
The inquest into Richard’s death found that the hospital that was supposed to care for him failed to respond appropriately to his increased Modified Early Warning Score (MEWS), which is designed to flag any negative changes to a patient’s condition. Changes to Richard’s diet and the failure to monitor his bowel movements by the care home also contributed to his constipation, and ultimately, his death.
Unfortunately, the courts have not found the hospital at fault for Richard’s death. His mother, Sheila Handley said, “Given the evidence we’ve heard in court, and the gross failures and missed opportunities noted, we are profoundly disappointed that the coroner felt unable to make a finding of neglect.”
It’s important to remember that while doctors are responsible for healing us, we are in charge of our bodies. We must always ensure that we are doing what we feel is right for our health, and to be adamant if we feel we are not being treated the way we should. Unfortunately, for Mrs. Handley and her son, the health care system failed them.
“Richard was wholly reliant on health and social care services to exist, and now he doesn’t.”
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