Family takes legal action against hospital after inquest returns ‘misadventure’ verdict

11:58 16 October 2012

Julie and Keith Vanneck in happier times.

Julie and Keith Vanneck in happier times.

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The mother-of-three from South Molton died after developing an infection following surgery.

A FAMILY is pursuing legal action against a hospital after the death of a loving wife, mother and grandmother.

Julie Vanneck, from South Molton, died after an operation to reverse a faulty stoma at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in March 2010.

An inquest heard the 50-year-old developed a chest infection and a further infection in her bowel after the surgery which caused her death.

In January 2009, the mother-of-three was rushed into North Devon District Hospital with a burst bowel, where she underwent an emergency colostomy.

But a fault with the procedure meant her stoma leaked, and she became incredibly unhappy.

Her husband, Keith Vanneck, 62, told the inquest: “She just wanted one that worked, not one that covered her in excrement.”

The couple visited the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in November 2009 to discuss having a further operation to correct the stoma and she was admitted in March 2010 to have the colostomy reversed.

Mrs Vanneck also had the autoimmune condition systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and due to the medication she was on had become obese and unable to leave the house without a wheelchair.

Andrew Gee, who carried out the colostomy reversal surgery, told the inquest he made it very clear to Mrs Vanneck there would be a risk of death due to her condition.

Mr Vanneck, who attended the appointments with his wife, denied either he or his wife had been told this.

Mr Gee also confirmed had she not undergone the operation, Mrs Vanneck would not have been at risk of death.

Their daughter Jaime Boxell, 35, said she did not believe her mother would have gone through the surgery if she knew she could die from it.

She said: “She was a very strong woman and they hadn’t told her anything she should be worried about.”

After her surgery she was reported to be doing well and was moved from Intensive Care to a high dependency unit within 24 hours, despite being told she would stay there for 2-3 days.

But Mrs Vanneck developed a chest infection and further CT scans showed pockets of gas in her abdominal cavity.

The inquest heard Mrs Vanneck and her family refused further surgery after being told by consultants she was unlikely to survive with or without it.

Mrs Boxell added: “I felt like we were ‘damned if you do or damned if you don’t’.”

A post mortem recorded the cause of death as being acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and intra-abdominal sepsis after her surgery.

The report said the SLE and obesity were also contributing factors in her death.

Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland returned a verdict of misadventure at the inquest on Monday.

Mr Vanneck told the Gazette he has never recovered from losing his wife and has since had counselling and been prescribed antidepressants.

He said: “Julie and I had been married for 25 years; she was like my right arm.

“I gave up my job as a builder to care for her.

“I don’t want a pay out or anything, I just want someone to accept responsibility for what has happened.”

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