THE family of a 20-year-old who would be alive today had it not been for a catalogue of mistakes made by hospital staff claim they have been repeatedly insulted by health bosses since his death.
Charlie Lowden’s death was so sudden and unexpected that police were called out to Ashington’s Wansbeck General Hospital and removed his medical files to establish if there were any grounds for prosecuting medics for manslaughter, but no charges were brought.
The scaffolder had undergone routine day surgery for a hernia after being taken ill in November 2009, but despite being just one point below the score on a medical warning scale deemed to require intensive care, he was sent home by doctors after they failed to spot the pulmonary embolism that claimed his life ten days later.
His devastated parents Lynn, 53, and Charles, 50, of Rosalind Avenue in Bedlington, feel they were treated with nothing short of contempt by NHS bosses during the most difficult time of their lives.
A year and a half on, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust accepted that its negligence was to blame for Charlie’s death and settled in court in June.
A settlement totalling £85,000 was agreed, and the majority of that cash will go to Charlie’s two children – Carlton Leon, six, and Sarah Lynn, four, both fathered by sperm donations to a lesbian aunt.
The remaining £6,255 will go to Charlie’s parents – money they have already spent on his funeral.
However, for Lynn and Charles, that payout was too little, too late – and the timing was all the more painful. To add insult to injury, they were notified of the settlement on what would have been Charlie’s 23rd birthday
“I felt sick,” said Lynn. “We found out on Charlie’s birthday.
“This year has been particularly hard, and for us to find out that day was terrible.
“We’ve never, ever wanted to settle, but our hands were forced. It was for Charlie’s two children.
“They think by us accepting this award that it’s all over, but it’s not all over, and we will continue to fight.
“They sent a solicitor to apologise on their behalf, but we didn’t want to hear it.”
Two months after Charlie died, they were horrified to receive a bill for £7.40 worth of prescription medication the 20-year-old had been given while in hospital.
Lynn said: “They said it was just a mistake. We had a meeting with them, and Charles banged the money on the table, then we left.”
Six weeks after the inquest into their son’s death, held a year ago in March, a letter of apology landed on the Lowdens’ doormat, but in it, the trust got the dates Charlie was admitted and discharged wrong, compounding his grieving parents’ resentment over the way the case had been handled.
“If I was drafting a letter like that, I wouldn’t have got the dates wrong,” Lynn said. “It is something I would check and check again.
“They knew how we felt anyway. They knew we weren’t happy.”
They were even less happy when Lynn and other family members were asked by the trust to have blood tests to see if there was any genetic predisposition for their blood to clot more easily – tests that came back negative.
The family are now looking into how they can take their complaint further. They have also set up a Facebook group entitled ‘unnecessary mistakes made in Wansbeck General Hospital’, and it already has more than 700 members.
Lynn added: “Our biggest gripe is that nobody was suspended, not even a slap on the wrist. If I had knocked somebody down and left them on the road, I would be in jail. In my view, they left him lying in the road.”
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of Mr Lowden and wish to again express our sympathies to his family at this difficult time.
“While a settlement has been made, we recognise it will not compensate the family for their loss.
“We have have put the necessary measures in place to minimise the chance of a similar case happening again.”