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Heart death family asks for inquest on daughter.

The family of a 24-year-old woman, who died after doctors at a Birmingham hospital failed to diagnose a dangerous heart condition until it was too late, is to push for an inquest one year after her death, writes Sophie Blakemore. Rebecca Snelling, a secretary from Chelmsley Wood, collapsed and died in her mother's arms in a corridor at Heartlands Hospital.

Medical staff had left cardiac arrest victim Rebecca in a wheelchair in the corridor for an hour and a half - despite a consultant declaring she was seriously ill and needed urgent major surgery, her family said.

They claimed that if doctors had given her a heart scan earlier it would have revealed the condition and given surgeons vital extra hours which could have saved her life.

Rebecca's family have made an official complaint to the hospital and are now planning to contact Birmingham Coroner Aidan Cotter to ask him to hold an inquest into her death.

Her father, Brian, said: 'We're not interested in compensation - we just want Heartlands to admit they were negligent in Rebecca's care.' He said he took Rebecca to Heartlands Accident and Emergency unit 12 months ago after she complained of severe chest pain. An ECG test revealed an abnormal heart rate.

A doctor wrote in her notes that she needed an echo cardiogram - a more detailed heart scan - the following day. But a consultant later overruled this and diagnosed a blood clot on the lung.

When her condition worsened two days later doctors decided to do the echo cardiogram which revealed her aorta had torn and she needed immediate surgery.

However, she was then put in a wheelchair and left with her mother for an hour-anda-half in a corridor, where she died, Mr Snelling said.

His wife, Pauline, said: 'If they scanned her when the first doctor asked for it to be done she would have had a fighting chance.

'But by the time they did the tear in her aorta was more advanced.'

A spokeswoman for Heartlands Hospital last night said the circumstances of Rebecca's death were reported to the coroner who elected not to hold an inquest after concluding she had died from natural causes.

She said a full and extensive investigation was carried out which included consideration of an independent report form a doctor outside the trust.

'The Trust can understand that Rebecca's family is deeply upset to lose a daughter at such a young age,' she said. 'We regret that Rebecca's condition was not diagnosed in time for her to undergo emergency surgery.

'Rebecca died from the rare condition of aortic dissection. This may have been related to an inherited condition called Marfan's syndrome, which has been suggested, but not confirmed since her death.

'Most recently the Trust has received a further letter from the family dated May 29 which is being considered.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 4, 2003
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