Melody Driscoll inquest: Eleven-year-old died of 'worst pancreatitis'

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image copyrightKarina Driscoll
image captionSinger Ed Sheeran visited Melody Driscoll at Epsom Hospital in November 2016

A seriously ill girl who was at the centre of a legal dispute over her hospital care died from post-operative complications, a coroner has said.

Melody Driscoll died aged 11 at King's College Hospital (KCH) in July 2018.

Pancreatitis and perforation of the bowel due to a procedure weeks earlier at KCH also contributed to her death, Southwark Coroner's Court heard.

Coroner Dr Julian Morris said Melody had a "complicated medical history" involving two specialist hospitals.

He said Melody's Rett Syndrome - a rare and life-limiting neurological disorder - also played a part in her death.

But the coroner said he did not believe that the action of weaning Melody off her medication was a contributory factor.

Dr Morris, who gave a narrative conclusion setting out more facts about Melody's death, stated he was not going to make a prevention of future deaths report - which would have addressed any concerns arising from the inquest.

He told the Melody's mother Karina and stepfather Nigel that he hoped they would be able to "move on in some small way", having listened to the evidence during the inquest.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionTributes to Melody Driscoll were placed outside Southwark Coroner's Court

Speaking outside the court, however, the parents said they would now be pursuing a case of medical negligence through the General Medical Council against KCH.

During the inquest, they alleged the actions of KCH medics reduced her quality of life and contributed to her death, including by improperly reducing her pain and steroid medications.

Much of the evidence during the three-day inquest focused on a endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) procedure in May 2018 to remove a gallstone and how Melody's pancreatitis developed.

Paediatric surgeon Dr Erica Makin, from KCH in south London, said Melody had "the worst pancreatitis" she had ever seen.

'Should not pander' to family

The inquest heard that the condition could have many causes, including gallstones.

Dr Mervyn Davies, a consultant gastroenterologist and hepatologist at St James's Hospital in Leeds, said the "fundamental question" was when the gallstone arose.

"If she had not developed the acute pancreatitis when she did, she would not have died when she did," he told the inquest.

image captionMelody Driscoll was described by her mum as a "stunning, vibrant, happy little girl who loved life"

The court heard Melody suffered from regular severe pain requiring medications including morphine and ketamine.

Her mother said that, while she was largely non-verbal, her daughter made recognisable signs when she was in pain, including tensing her muscles and shouting.

Mrs Driscoll claimed staff at KCH had a "we know best attitude" that meant her were not listened to when Melody's pain relief was reduced.

Court documents showed one email in which one doctor told another KCH staff member they "should not pander to this family".

Speaking at the conclusion of the inquest, a KCH spokeswoman said: "We note the coroner's conclusion, which recognised Melody's complex medical history and found that the treatment and care provided to Melody at King's, by multiple highly-specialised physicians and surgeons, was appropriate for her condition."

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