“Ms. H”

Name: “Ms. H”.
Died: May 7, 2015.
Age at death: 23.
Cause of death: Appendicitis.
Location: Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia.

Ms. H went to the emergency room with the classic symptoms of appendicitis; but doctors first suspected pregnancy, then diagnosed her with gastroenteritis. She initially refused an IV and did not want to change into a hospital gown; perhaps at this point, doctors labeled her uncooperative.

When she requested they do an ultrasound (a test which would have easily detected the appendicitis), they made her wait overnight. Finally Ms. H decided she had had enough and said she was discharging herself. She got a referral for an ultrasound at an outpatient clinic and left the hospital. At this point, staff were still unaware that she had a healthcare guardian, who should have been called to help Ms. H navigate the hospital system.

Ms. H, her appendicitis still undiagnosed, returned to the hospital 24 hours later in poor condition. This time, staff recognized that there was something very wrong with her and rushed her to get a CT scan, which revealed that her appendix had ruptured and flooded her abdominal cavity with infectious matter. She was rushed to surgery.

Ms. H had two surgeries before her family was finally notified that she was even sick. More antibiotics and another surgery later, doctors decided further treatment would be futile and withdrew treatment. Ms. H died five days after she first presented to the ER with appendicitis that should have been treatable.

Editor’s note: Ms. H seems to have been in that difficult position of being able to live independently and communicate well enough to be considered “not too disabled”, to the point that no one suspected she needed a health-care guardianship. She was, in fact, disabled, and her disability and its consequences, like not being able to tolerate a hospital gown or being afraid of having an IV, gave doctors just enough of an excuse not to listen to her insistence that she needed an ultrasound right away, rather than the next day. Because she was disabled, she could not access health care; because she seemed non-disabled, she was not given help to access health care.

Non-inquest findings into the death of Ms H

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