02 Dec 2009 “An Animal Would Have Been Treated with More Compassion”
Debra Luck, the widow of Ian Luck, believes the medical staff at the British government’s Princess Alexandra Hospital was so neglectful of her late husband’s care during his last days that he effectively “was murdered… because people couldn’t be bothered to do their job properly.”
Ian Luck spent the last weeks of his life in agony because of lack of care at the government-run Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex, UK, where he died in 2002.
For over five years, Luck’s widow, Debra, and nine-year-old son, Ben, fought for answers as to why hospital staff neglected Luck, frequently leaving him to lay in his own vomit and waste and failing to realize the severity of his increasingly-desperate state.
Luck checked in to the Princess Alexandra on June 12, 2002 after being too weak to eat and vomiting heavily. He had suffered for several years from gastric problems, and was treated twice in 2002 for lost fluids because of vomiting and diarrhea. This time, an endoscope discovered an ulcer. Doctors prescribed antibiotics to Luck, gave him fluids and sent him home after a six-day stay.
On June 20, Luck returned to the hospital for a second endoscope exam when the inflammation in his stomach had not cleared up. However, the ulcer ruptured during the procedure, and emergency surgery had to be performed to repair it.
Following surgery, Debra Luck was effectively left to look after his health and comfort.
“No one wanted to help us. Every time we asked for pain relief, or to see a doctor, we were told to wait, or that we didn’t know what we were talking about,” she said.
Luck’s condition continued to decline, but hospital staff showed an utter lack of sympathy. Debra Luck recalled that the staff failed to or were slow to perform basic functions, such as cleaning up after her husband.
“He was vomiting ten times an hour, and there were bowls around his bed to catch it,” she said. However, “Often they weren’t emptied for more than an hour and they smelled awful. The first time that happened I found a nurse and asked if she could empty them. When she said she was too busy, I offered to do it myself.”
Debra Luck began resorting to bringing in clean pillowcases, shirts and pants, and having to change her husband herself. “As fast as I changed him he was sick again. The nurses were not interested in helping me,” she said. “An animal would have been treated with more compassion.”
Meanwhile, it was not known if the bleeding from the ulcer had stopped. “I made two appointments to speak to a consultant during the course of those ten days,” she said, “and both times he didn’t turn up. When I tried to talk to junior doctors they were either too busy or didn’t know enough.”
Frustrated and fearing for her husband’s life, Debra Luck attempted to have Ian transferred to a local private hospital. Though the private hospital agreed, staff at the Princess Alexandra rejected the move because Luck was not stable.
On June 28, at the request of a junior doctor, a consultant at last saw Luck. But the consultant failed to follow up on the suggestion that a laparotomy (surgical examination), which might have determined the definitive cause of Luck’s bleeding, be carried out. On June 29, a second junior doctor called for a consultant’s review, which was never performed.
Two days later, after a particularly agonizing night in which nurses forgot to inject painkillers, Luck began to lapse in and out of consciousness and struggle to breathe. That morning, “He was covered in vomit and had wet himself,” remembered Debra. “I changed him, but when I asked for clean surgical stockings the nurse said there were none left in his size… I couldn’t change his T-shirt without help… but I was told by the nurse she was too busy and to leave him dirty.”
That evening, a junior doctor suspected that Luck had suffered a collapsed lung and ordered a chest X-ray. But Luck went into cardiac arrest during the procedure and had to be resuscitated. By the time family members arrived, Luck already suffered a second, fatal cardiac arrest.
“I actually feel that Ian was murdered,” Debra said. “He died because people couldn’t be bothered to do their job properly.”
Debra Luck contends that the hospital did not carry out necessary tests. “What I’ve learned since is that his urine and vomit should have been monitored continuously. Both were vital to working out just how ill he was and whether he would need further investigations. The fact that no one kept a record probably added to his lack of correct treatment.”
In October 2007, the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust agreed to compensate Debra and Ben a combined sum of £225,000 (~$366,000), though the National Health Service refused to accept liability for Luck’s death.
For her part, Debra Luck remains angry, telling Britain’s Daily Mail, “No one has been punished or sacked. No one from the hospital has offered to meet me and tell me how things went so wrong, let alone offered an apology. For all I know, the same appalling standard of care is still acceptable in that hospital. If that is the case, then there will be more unnecessary deaths.”
Learn the truth about government-run medicine from the National Center for Public Policy Research’s new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.