A bereaved widow has spoken of her relief after top judges ruled there should be a second inquest into her husband’s death at a Birmingham hospital.
Retired clinical psychologist Carol Mack, aged 70, of Northfield, has spent more than £50,000 in legal costs fighting a decision made by Aidan Cotter, the coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, at an inquest in June 2009.
Her husband, Stan Mack, died aged 77 at Selly Oak Hospital in June 2008 of a heart attack.
He was admitted to the hospital when he became seriously ill following a hip operation.
He was found to be suffering from super bug Clostridium Difficile (C Diff) and was placed in intensive care.
After his condition improved, the former Rover manager, was transferred to a specialist ward but died on after suffering a heart attack. A post-mortem showed he had an existing heart condition.
Despite finding at the original inquest there were “shortcomings” in the care he received, the coroner did not rule his death was due to negligence.
Mrs Mack challenged the coroner’s handling of the inquest at the High Court sitting in Birmingham – arguing that material witnesses were not called – but a judge refused to order another inquest into her husband’s death.
However, she has now triumphed at London’s Court of Appeal, where three of the country’s most senior judges ordered a fresh inquest.
Lord Justice Toulson said the coroner gave “no satisfactory explanation” for not calling as a witness the doctor responsible for Mr Mack’s care at the time of his death – in a case which caused “very considerable concern”.
Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Mack said: “I am delighted with the result. Nothing will bring Stan back but at least we feel that justice is being done.”
Mr Mack’s son Ian, aged 43, added: “To risk £50,000 is a very big risk but it’s a measure of how certain we were that the inquest was fundamentally flawed.
“It’s important that we find out what happened as the care my father experienced could have been extended to other people,” added the managing director from Wolverhampton.
Lord Justice Toulson, sitting with the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, and Lord Justice Etherton, said Mr Mack’s treatment between his admission to hospital and his death gave rise to “considerable concerns”, including the fact the specialist C Diff treatment ward ran out of medication for the infection.
There were also failures in the recording of Mr Mack’s fluid levels – including one occasion when they were not noted at all – and a number of tests and procedures recommended by the ward consultant were not carried out, the court heard.
The appeal judge said the coroner’s conduct of the inquest, heard in June 2009, was “conscientious” and said Mr Cotter “probed what he could” based on the medical records available.
He said it was “entirely proper” for the coroner to restrict the numbers of medical staff giving evidence, but that the consultant responsible for Mr Mack’s care on the specialist ward should have been called.
The judge added: “One cannot know for certain how far the consultant would have been able to answer such questions a year after the event, but it is plain there were limits as to how far the previous doctor could go.
“I am not satisfied that any truly rational ground has been shown for saying that it was not appropriate for exploring those matters with that particular consultant, given the variety and the troubling nature of the many shortcomings.”
Mrs Mack said her husband was a devoted family man who loved playing with his grandchildren and spending time in the garden.
The family said it was also making a formal complaint to the Office of Judicial Complaints regarding Mr Cotter’s conduct.