A MAN who failed to seek medical care for his mother contributed to her death, a coroner has ruled.
Joan Farran was found dead at her rubbish-filled home in Hall Road, Hebburn, on December 17, last year.
The 86-year-old died of natural causes, but an inquest yesterday heard that her son, Stephen, had known she was dying for three days but did not seek medical help.
South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney heard Mr Farran, who lived with his mother, was her sole carer and knew she was close to death for three days but didn’t call for medical help because, he said, she “wanted to die at home”.
Mr Carney said: “I am in a position that I must record this death as natural causes. However, part of that cause of death could, in my view, have reasonably been avoided by the early administration of some medication.
“She was, undoubtedly, to die sooner rather than later but the failure to seek medical care for a lady who, by admission, was dying for three days amounts, in my view, to neglect.”
Mr Farran was not at the inquest, but the hearing heard he told police that he had wanted to seek medical assistance for his mother but that she had begged him not to because she wanted to die at home, and not in hospital.
He also said that at around 8pm on December 16, last year, his mother had “sat forward, made a funny noise, then slumped back down in her chair.”
Mr Farran said he knew she had died but, not knowing what to do about it, sat and drank some cans of lager. Before he knew it, it was morning.
The hearing heard he then spoke to a neighbour, saying his mother had died at 8pm the night before, and she excused herself before secretly calling the police.
Mr Farran was arrested on suspicion of gross neglect resulting in manslaughter, but the Crown Prosecution Service took no further action and the matter was passed to the coroner.
Home Office pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton told the hearing the house was “markedly cluttered” and that there was just a “small pathway from the door to where Mrs Farran was sitting by the fire”.
She also said that Mrs Farran’s clothing was stained with urine and faeces, and that it was impossible to determine exactly how long she had been dead.
Dr Bolton said that Mrs Farran had a number of long-standing conditions but that her cause of death had been bronchial pneumonia due to chronic Obstructive pulmonary disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Pc Jonathan King said that, after forcing his way into the property, he was met by a dark and cold house that smelled of urine and was littered with rubbish.
He said: “My first reaction to the condition of this house was that it was just appalling.”
He said it was apparent that Mrs Farran was deceased and that a paramedic later confirmed that.
Alan Armstrong, principal environmental health officer for South Tyneside Council, said the amount of rubbish in the house would have taken between eight and 10 months to reach that state.
Mr Carney said he accepted the cause of death.
He said: “All of those are natural and natural progressive diseases and in many causes, as I often am, if I was presented with that cause of death, I would simply record it was natural causes.
“In this case, I am in a position that I must record this death as natural causes, however, part of that cause of death could, in my view, have reasonably been avoided by the early administration of some medication. I’m not saying that antibiotics would have avoided Joan’s death, she was undoubtedly to die sooner rather than later, but the failure to seek medical care for a lady who, by admission, was dying for three days amounts, in my view, to neglect.”
Mr Carney also said that he was going to write to relevant authorities in the hope that something can be learnt from Mrs Farran’s death, by increasing communication between different authorities dealing with the same patient.
Mr Farran was not available for comment at the house in Hall Road last night.
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said that all the information the force had was handed over to the coroner in the days after Mrs Farran’s death.
She was unable to comment on whether officers would return to the case in light of Mr Carney’s comments.
* Coroner’s finding: Natural causes contributed to by neglect