Inquest finds ‘tragic misdiagnosis’ led to schoolboy’s death

June 12, 2017

The inquest into the death of a County Down schoolboy at Daisy Hill Hospital two years ago has found   that a “tragic misdiagnosis” led to his death.

Eleven year old Stephen McElroy, from Ballyward, died from a bowel obstruction which was wrongly diagnosed as constipation and he was sent home with laxatives.

The inquest heard that Stephen had been brought to Daisy Hill A&E department just before midnight on March 28th 2015 suffering from severe abdominal pain, with a history of vomiting and pain from the previous day. A paediatric “Early Warning System” sheet was commenced and the boy received pain relief over 5 hours later before being discharged at 6.35am following assessment by a locum middle grade doctor.

Upon his return home Stephen vomited after taking his prescribed medication and his concerned mother Patty contacted the emergency department at around 8am.  Her son was not recalled to A&E but after watching him deteriorate, the family returned to Daisy Hill at noon.  Stephen collapsed upon arrival at the hospital and had to be resuscitated.  Efforts to save the schoolboy were stopped at 3.22pm and Stephen died from a small bowel infarction, pneumonia and intra-abdominal adhesions.

The coroner accepted that the patient should have been immediately recalled when his parents made contact early that morning, finding that if he had been examined by a doctor at that time, he most likely would have survived.

Coroner McCrisken said failures to take more immediate action including a critical x-ray, coupled with a lack of senior medical staff at Daisy Hill Emergency Department had contributed to the death of the well known schoolboy, who was due to start St.Colman’s College in Newry the following September.   He highlighted the “devastating impact” the loss of their son has had on the McElroy family and described the care given as “wholly inadequate.”

After the inquest, Mrs McElroy said she hoped no other family will have to go through what they are going through.

“The past two years since Stephen’s death and the subsequent inquest has been a painful and difficult time for our family. We have gotten some peace from the findings and verdict,” she said.

“There were a lot of mistakes on the part of the Southern Trust who were responsible for Stephen’s care and as a result of those failings we lost our beautiful strong boy.

“We love Stephen and miss him so much every single day. Our only hope is that radical changes are made by the Southern Trust and that no other family has to ever go through this,” said the McElroy family.

Stephen’s dad Paul added,

“It’s the hardest thing to lose a child – your eldest son. And now his wee brother sitting on his own,” “Now being given the truth, that the child should still be living, is very hard to deal with.”