Three visits by doctors
In August 2004 Warren became distressed and was visited by doctors on three occasions. Each time Peter and Wendy asked whether anything was wrong with his appendix or if he had a bowel blockage and were told that this was not the case.
Warren’s condition seemed to improve, but a few weeks later he again fell ill – his doctor put it down to a viral infection. On 25 September 2004 Warren’s stomach had swollen, he could not take down food and he was crying with pain.
When the out-of-hours GP arrived, Peter and Wendy maintain that he gave no indication of the seriousness of Warren’s condition. He advised that Warren be taken for an X-ray, but as the department didn’t open until 9am, the Coxes decided not to take him immediately.
Throughout the night Warren seemed to be in more pain. It was only when Peter again called the out-ofhours GP, that an urgent (but not emergency) ambulance was arranged.
Warren died within two hours of reaching the hospital. When Wendy noticed that his colour had changed she alerted a nurse, who realised that Warren had stopped breathing. His death certificate lists peritonitis following a burst appendix, and bowel blockage.
To Peter and Wendy, it is clear that the doctors overlooked Warren’s symptoms. “If one of them had said to us ‘get him to a hospital’ he might still be here,” says Wendy.
Understandably, the Coxes are angry about the ombudsman’s report. They feel that it effectively blames them and clears the doctors of any wrongdoing. “How can they say they realised Warren was dangerously ill, but not call an emergency ambulance?” says Wendy.
“You start asking ‘were we wrong?’” says Peter. “But we did everything right and trusted the doctors.”
Peter says that the ombudsman is simply safeguarding the doctors. While some complaints were upheld in four of the six deaths, Peter says that none were upheld for Warren because there were no other witnesses during his final hours. “There’s only me and Wendy against the doctors,” he insists. “And they haven’t listened to us.”
What will Peter and Wendy do next? They talk about going to the European Court of Human Rights and making a claim for clinical negligence, but going over Warren’s story countless times has been emotionally draining. “It feels like we’ve been beaten,” says Wendy. “We’ll never give up, though, otherwise you’ll always think that they got away with it.”
This article appeared in the March/April 2009 edition of Viewpoint
Read Mencap's response to the reports on each of the six cases.