Sepsis tragedy

Blackpool and Fylde coroner Alan Wilson

Blackpool and Fylde coroner Alan Wilson

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A retired Marton stonemason died from an infection after he and his wife resisted suggestions that he should go into hospital or a home - because they were inseparable.

The health of Brian Dunn, 77, may have deteriorated as a result of their insistence that they could cope, a Blackpool Coroner’s Court inquest heard.

But Blackpool and Fylde coroner Alan Wilson concluded that this was their “prerogative” and rejected the suggestion that Mr Dunn’s death was caused by “self-
neglect”.

A post-mortem examination found that he had died due to sepsis, a condition which 
affects blood supply and which was caused by a cellulitis infection in his legs and infected pressure sores.

Peripheral vascular disease - involving narrowing of blood vessels - and coronary heart disease caused by narrowed arteries had affected his ability to withstand the infection.

Mr Dunn’s wife Doreen is now on oxygen 16 hours a day and was therefore unable to attend the hearing. But the couple’s son, Brian Dunn junior, told how his dad had first become ill around eight years earlier after falling down stairs at his sister’s house, breaking his leg.

Mr Dunn said he believed the metal plates and bolts inserted into his dad’s leg had caused ulcers in his leg.

District nurses had attended to dressing the ulcers but the court heard their services were dispensed with after Mr Dunn senior complained that one dressing had made the matter worse.

His wife and sister had taken care of the dressings for the last three or four years.

“My parents were married for 50 years and dad did not want to go into a home,” said Mr Dunn. “I think we all knew he should be in a home but he did not want to go.

“My dad was stubborn and he and mum were inseparable. She did not want him to go into hospital or a home.

“It was a case of them saying ‘we’ll manage’.”

The inquest heard a district nurse, Alison Evans, had visited the couple on July 11, and dressed Mr Dunn’s leg ulcers with a colleague.

She tried to convince him to allow evening nurses to resume regular visits but Mrs Dunn claimed the couple had been let down previously by twilight nurses at the time of their daughter’s death nine years earlier.

Both nurses had thought Mr Dunn was “gravely unwell and likely to pass away soon” and a report was written immediately for managers.

Mr Dunn junior persuaded his mother to call the GP surgery on Thursday, July 13, and a doctor visited the following morning. But Mr Dunn passed away at their Barclay Avenue home at 7.35pm that day.

Mr Wilson concluded that Mr Dunn had died due to natural causes and said he had no criticism of the district nurses. He said that to record self-neglect as a contributing factor he would need to have evidence of a “gross failure”.

“Although it’s probably correct to say the approach taken by Mr Dunn had a detrimental impact on his health and probably accelerated his decline it would be wrong to regard that as a gross failure,” he added.