‘Condemned to death’: Parents told intensive care error led to disabled daughter’s death after eight-year battle for truth
The death is bad enough but the prolonged battle for an explanation is inexcusable
A disabled teenager was ‘condemned to death’ after a consultant failed to send her to intensive care, an inquest heard. Kirsty Pearce, 17, who suffered from 14 complex medical conditions was admitted to Basildon Hospital, Essex, suffering from coughing and shortness of breath in August 2003.
Speaking at the inquest, consultant Stephen Wade, said his decision not to send her to the intensive care unit the night before she died contributed to her death. He said: ‘It was a bad decision of mine and I have found that very hard to come to terms with. If my advice had been different maybe the outcome would have been different.
‘By not putting her in the intensive care unit sooner it was condemning her to death. It was a massive error of judgement. It was a fault of mine and I gave bad advice.’
Her parents, who have fought for eight years to get answers, finally heard at an inquest how their daughter died. She died of pulmonary edema, a condition where there is an abnormal build-up of fluid in the lungs.
They paid tribute to their daughter and said they hoped ‘lessons can be learnt’ from the tragedy. Her mother Peggy Pearce said: ‘She never complained. She had the most amazing imagination and was always smiling. She was a gem, and a total pleasure to be around. ‘She was such an outgoing child, she could ride her bike without stabilisers and had so much energy.
‘She hated the word disabled but she was, she didn’t moan though, she made the most of life.’
Kirsty, of Pitsea, Essex, suffered from 14 complex medical conditions including arthritis, asthma, growth failure, and impaired kidney function among many others. She was well known on the children’s ward at Basildon Hospital where she was admitted on her last visit.
She was admitted to the hospital on the evening of August 28 2003. She was given two doses of frusemide throughout the night to try and cure the shortness of breath, but her condition worsened. She had responded well to the medicine on previous occasions when she came into hospital suffering the same symptoms.
Dr Raghavendra Gangawahi, who was the doctor on duty that night, told the inquest he did not send Kirsty straight to intensive care because he wanted to wait and see if the frusemide worked. Dr Gangawahi had three phone conversations that night with Dr Wade, who was the on-call consultant and had cared for Kirsty previously.
He advised Dr Gangawahi at 3.30am, after two doses of frusemide, not to send her to intensive care and to give her a third dose of frusemide at about 3.30am.
Kirsty’s condition deteriorated and at about 6.30am she was sent to intensive care. By 7am Kirsty had suffered a cardiac arrest and medics tried for 40 minutes to resuscitate her.
Dr Gangawahi, had never cared for Kirsty before, and was the only registrar covering the paediatric unit that night. While caring for Kirsty he was also helped to deliver and care for a baby that was born at 24 weeks.
Coroner Tina Harrington said: ‘There was a failure to record to seriousness of Kirsty’s condition which led to a delay in her transferring her to an appropriate intensive care unit or high dependency unit.
‘Notes and medical information was scant. Looking at all of this Kirsty may not have survived this episode. But the delay in getting the sort of treatment from the right kind of doctors contributed to Kirsty’s death.’
Father Charles Pearce, said: ‘It was very pleasing to hear the coroner come back with the verdict. It is justice for Kirsty and now finally someone has taken responsibility for our daughter’s death.’
Kirsty went to Pitsea Infant School but as her health conditions worsened she was cared for full time at home by her parents, who are both retired psychiatric nurses. They have another son called Tim.
Basildon Hospital bosses say they have introduced a raft of improvements on the children’s ward since Kirsy Pearce’s death.
Speaking after the inquest verdict, Dr Birgit Van Meijgaarden, consultant paediatrician and clinical lead for children’s services, said the hospital had learnt valuable lessons. They have since recruited a dedicated learning disability nurse advisor, to provide support for special needs patients and their families. They have also introduced a new high dependency cubicle, which was dedicated to Kirsty’s memory.
Dr Meijgaarden said: ‘We accept the coroner’s verdict and have listened very carefully to the comments made during the proceedings. ‘We will continue to advance our care and treatment for children in every way we can. The thoughts of all the children’s doctors and nurses at the trust are with the Pearce family.’
Mrs Pearce said: ‘We are content with the changes which have taken place at Basildon Hospital. If one life of a child can be saved with what we have done then all that we have been through will be worth it. ‘We are pleased with the high dependency room which has been named after Kirsty and hopefully that will help save the lives of children in the future.’
She added: ‘I’m so pleased we had 17 years with her. I would do it all over again just to have her back with us. We have got amazing memories of our daughter.’
Mr Pearce is writing a book in tribute to his daughter and about the family’s eight year battle to have an inquest heard. He hopes to get the book called Kirsty- A Father’s Fight for Justice published next year.
‘Parliament, not Leveson, should set British Press rules’: Leading judge questions role of inquiry
One of the country’s most senior judges last night questioned the role of the Leveson inquiry into the future of the Press.
Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger said that the job of setting up rules to regulate the Press should be done by Parliament and not by a judicial inquiry.
Lord Neuberger also threw a question mark over the right of MPs on the Commons Culture Committee, which is investigating phone hacking, to decide on whether individuals have been guilty of criminal activities.
His remarks, in a speech on the need for properly drawn up laws, amount to the first public doubts over Lord Leveson’s inquiry from colleagues in the judiciary.
Lord Neuberger, who as Master of the Rolls is England’s leading civil law judge, conducted an inquiry earlier this year into the development of privacy law.
He said yesterday that ‘all hell broke loose’ over phone hacking after the ‘particularly revolting incident’ in which News of the World journalists are said to have hacked into the phone of murder victim Millie Dowler, an act that encouraged her parents to believe she was still alive.
‘It was right and proper that the Government then acted firmly and promptly,’ he said.
‘It was sensible to deal with the question of the appropriate long-term response in a considered way, by referring the issues for consideration, rather than leaping in with legislation or regulation, as happened with MPs’ expenses.’
But he added: ‘We do nonetheless seem to have ended up in a somewhat paradoxical situation.
‘The issue of what sort of rules should be in place in the future to regulate the Press and its relations with politicians is being dealt with by a judge with assessors, whereas the question whether certain individuals were in some way privy to the hacking is being investigated by the House of Commons, through a committee.
‘It might be thought that issues of future policy were for the legislature, whereas the question whether an individual was in some way privy to a crime was for the courts.’
The Master of the Rolls continued: ‘Unusual circumstances result in unusual consequences, but at least we do not have the threat of knee-jerk legislation, as we did when it came to parliamentary expenses.’
‘Sometimes a police state is a good thing’
The Twitterati’s unhinged hounding of ‘racist tram lady’ confirms how intolerant the tweeting herd can be
‘Ok so this women’s been arrest[ed]. I guess my video was a success. This has caused quite a bit of hype.’
So tweeted Kelly Hollingsworth, who used her mobile phone to record a now infamous video of a woman in her thirties, with a toddler on her lap, shouting racist abuse at fellow passengers on a packed tram in Croydon, London. Hollingsworth posted the video on YouTube on Sunday and, within 24 hours, it had notched up over 100,000 views. Before long, a Twitter hashtag #MyTramExperience (based on the title of the video) was trending all over the UK. Dozens of people tweeted the video to the British Transport Police (BTP) and assisted them with their hunt for the mysterious woman. Within hours of the tweeting frenzy, the BTP announced that they had arrested a 34-year-old ‘on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence’; she has now been charged and the YouTube video has been viewed almost 2.2million times.
Welcome to a twenty-first-century Twitch Hunt. That term, coined in 2009 by spiked editor Brendan O’Neill, sums up this Orwellian modern phenomenon, where a mob of illiberal liberals on Twitter work with the authorities to silence those who dare to utter words that offend their sensibilities. This was the case with Daily Mail writer Jan Moir following her comments about the late Boyzone star Stephen Gately, and it happened again with celebrity controversialist, Kenneth Tong, who wrote pro-anorexia tweets. The horrible racist comments made by ‘tram lady’ – police have charged a woman called Emma West in relation to the incident – are, of course, of a different order to what Moir and Tong did and said, yet this woman has similarly experienced the wrath of the Twittermob.
No one would argue that tram lady’s comments were excusable. She was rightly condemned and challenged by her fellow travellers. Indeed, in many ways the video of this incident offered an excellent example of how these kinds of tense situations can be resolved informally. Disproving the Twitterati’s claim that the tram incident shows that racism is still rife today, in fact many of the passengers – both black and white – challenged the foul-mouthed shouter.
That wasn’t enough for the Twittermob, however, who wanted a piece of the action. They instantly expressed their moral fury, passing judgement without pausing for thought. Almost immediately upon seeing the video, people were tweeting it to the cops and naming the potential culprit and the place where she apparently works. Even Labour Party leader Ed Miliband joined in, asking followers to help ‘identify the woman shouting racist abuse on a tram in London’. Following the arrest of a suspect, tweeters showered the transport police with praise. ‘Sometimes a police state can be used for the powers of good. Well done, @btp_uk!’, said one tweet. ‘That’s social media at work for you, an arrest in the afternoon of the video hitting the TT in Twitter!’, said another.
Other tweeters called on the police to ‘lock her up and throw away the key’ and ‘save her child’. Literally hundreds of people, with no indication that they were joking, tweeted that the woman should be sterilised, deported, punched, kicked and shot. Some suggested she should be shot between the eyes, others that she should be shot in her ovaries. Other Twitterers expressed a preference for hanging her or said she should be ‘put down’ like a dog. Fittingly for Twitch Hunters, there were also demands that she be drowned or burnt at the stake.
Rising above all this unhinged online fury, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the kind of racism exhibited by racist tram lady is remarkably rare in twenty-first-century Britain. Far from being representative of the Daily Mail outlook or of ‘Broken Britain’, as many tweeters claimed, the reason the video is shocking is because such openly racist speech is, thankfully, a very odd thing these days. As one person tweeted, ‘Wowww hard to believe people like her still exist in Britain today’.
According to rumours in the Croydon area, the woman in question was ‘going through a breakdown’ when the footage was filmed. She certainly appears unwell, or at least drunk, in the video. But that won’t stop the Twittermob from letting rip; they never let anything as insignificant as facts or context get in the way of their mass screech for the hanging, drawing and quartering of a witch. At a time when moral certainties are few and far between, the useful thing about Twitch Hunts is that they provide people with a moment of extreme moralistic clarity, where they can gang together and demonstrate their ‘liberal’ credentials by tweeting: ‘I HATE HER.’
For all the sound and the fury generated by this video, this remains simply an isolated case of a possibly unstable woman shouting out obnoxious comments. One Twitterer tweeted at Kelly Hollingsworth, the woman who recorded the video, ‘If I was on that tram with that racist woman, I’d have thrown her off the tram while in motion, then fostered her child’. Hollingsworth responded: ‘LOL we all could see she weren’t worth it.’ If only the rest of Twitter had adopted that kind of response.
Rather than showing that ‘racism in Britain is as rife as ever’, as one person tweeted, the #MyTramExperience Twitch Hunt actually reveals the rise of a different backward trend: the tendency for herds of intolerant Twitterers to act like coppers’ narks, to make a massive deal out of their own shallow moralistic indignation, and to be utterly contemptuous of the idea that the public is more than capable of dealing with isolated incidents of racist abuse when they arise. The hounding of this woman was not a great act of anti-racist activism – it was the virtual equivalent of children chasing the local crazy lady through the streets and shouting ‘Nutter!’ or ‘Cow!’.
David Attenborough is accused of climate change sensationalism by Lord Lawson
Lord Lawson has accused David Attenborough of sensationalism and alarmism over the environment. The former Tory chancellor, who is a climate change sceptic, said the broadcaster’s claims about global warming were sheer speculation.
In the final episode of his natural history series Frozen Planet, which is broadcast next Wednesday, Sir David is expected to suggest the Arctic could be free of ice by 2020.
In a piece written for Radio Times, Lord Lawson said: ‘Sir David Attenborough is one of our finest journalists and a great expert on animal life. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to global warming, he seems to prefer sensation to objectivity.
‘Had he wished to be objective, he would have pointed out that, while satellite observations confirm that the extent of Arctic sea ice has been declining over the past 30 years, those satellite observations show that overall, Antarctic sea ice has been expanding over the same period.’
Sir David – in the same edition of Radio Times – said that ‘data from satellites collected over the last 40 years show a drop of 30 per cent in the area of the Arctic sea ice at the end of each summer’. He added that the ice was ‘almost half as thick as it was in the 1980s’ and that animals such as polar bears were in jeopardy.
Sir David wrote that the loss of sea ice in the north affected the whole planet because it acted as ‘a huge reflector, bouncing 85 per cent of the sun’s heat back into space’. He warned of devastating effects in coastal areas as sea levels rose.
Lord Lawson has claimed that the polar bear population was rising and that while there had been a ‘modest increase’ in the mean world temperature in the final quarter of the 20th century, the Met Office had confirmed there had been no further global warming.
The former Conservative minister said: ‘Two things are clear. First, that Sir David’s alarmism is sheer speculation. Second, that if there is a resumption of warming, the only rational course is to adapt to it, rather than to try (happily a lost cause) to persuade the world to impoverish itself by moving from relatively cheap carbon-based energy to much more expensive non-carbon energy.’
It has already been revealed that the BBC is offering Frozen Planet to broadcasters in other countries without the controversial climate change episode.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, most populations of polar bears are declining.
Sir David has been vocal about his concerns over climate change for many years and in 2006 he warned that the issue was the biggest challenge facing the world. He has said: ‘If we do care about our grandchildren then we have to do something.’
Malcolm Gladwell, tipping points and Climategate
How a marketing buzzword changed the world
By Andrew Orlowski
Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell had a powerful impact on the way climate change was marketed to the public, without even knowing it. Gladwell’s marketing book, published in 2000, embedded the phrase “tipping point” into the public’s imagination, and this in turn was used to raise the urgency of climate change.
It seems ridiculous today, with climate sensitivity models being tuned downwards, natural variability recognised as increasingly important, and climate institutions talking about a period of long-term cooling. Much of the urgency went out of the window after countries failed to agree on a successor to the Kyoto agreement at Copenhagen in 2009, and the costs and taxes of “low carbon” strategies are political poison.
But back in the mid-noughties, it was very different. The idea that the climate was reaching a “tipping point”, and that global temperature would runaway uncontrollably, was rife. It created a sense of urgency that helped pass legislation such as the UK’s Climate Change Act in 2008.
This story emerges from the FOIA2011 archive – the so-called Climategate 2.0 emails released last week. Although it hasn’t had the immediate and dramatic impact of the first leak two years ago, the breadth of social networks uncovered in these emails will keep historians busy for years – and whets the appetite for the 95 per cent of UEA emails still under wraps.
The idea of climatic tipping points is fascinating for several reasons.
The question of whether ecosystems are inherently stable – or unstable – preoccupied biologists for much of the last century – and was the subject of Adam Curtis’s film The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts, in a BBC series for which I was assistant producer, and which Curtis summarised here. Fashions change, and so do myths. Arthur Tansley, who invented the word “ecosystem”, believed in “the great universal law of equilibrium”, and this was pursued for decades. Today, the idea that ecosystems are delicate and unstable instead dominates.
The idea also divides scientists. Geologists, for example, point to evidence of long-term cycles, and stress continuity and predictability. For example, we roughly know how long interglacial periods last – we’re in one now, which is due to end fairly soon. And the idea also divides us. If you are of the view that mankind is a disturbance to a natural order, you’re much more likely to believe in runaway effects. If you’re of the view that nature is here to be tamed for our benefit – an idea born out of the Enlightenment – you’re more likely not to panic.
In 2000, New Yorker journalist Malcolm Gladwell published a mish-mash of ideas that nevertheless spawned a buzzword. Gladwell found a common metaphor that could describe – but importantly, not quite convincingly explain – things as different as the spread of diseases, social behaviour (crime waves) and best-selling products. The phrase “tipping point” was everywhere.
Both Gladwell and Tansley were really making grand, metaphorical generalisations. Gladwell borrowed his idea from epidemiology, Tansley from the idea of the human brain as an electrical circuit. Both became universal “theories of everything”.
Into our story comes the magnificent Hans Joachim “John” Schellnhuber CBE, a German physicist and social networker, whose stratospherically high opinion of himself is not, it seems, shared by the climate scientists at the University of East Anglia. Today Schellnhuber is climate change advisor to the president of the EU Commission, and boasts of regular chats with Chancellor Merkel. He was a climate advisor to Tony Blair.
By the late 1990s Schellnhuber was a powerful and influential figure. Having founded the Potsdam climate research institute he was able to influence the establishment of a UK equivalent, the Tyndall Centre, and UEA was bidding to host it.
On his blog, Andrew Montford relates the tale of how Schellnhuber helped hand the Tyndall award to UEA, then took a post as its research director. This was a full-time job, but Schellnhuber concurrently held a full-time job at Potsdam – leading to incredulity from his new colleagues at UEA. “Even a very competent person could not possibly hold down two responsible, full-time jobs like this,” writes former CRU director Tom Wigley, in amazement.
Schellnhuber had become fascinated by complex systems and non-linearity, particularly the work coming out of the New Age-y Santa Fe Institute. (He formally joined the Institute last year.) This was deeply influential. What he saw terrified him: a world out of control. Let this hagiographic profile of Schellnhuber pick up the tale.
“After many successful, and some failed, attempts to explain climate change to political leaders and CEOs, Schellnhuber has a good sense of what works and what does not. As the lead author of the chapter on ‘large-scale discontinuities’ in the third report produced by the IPCC, he used the phrase ‘tipping point’, which has wide currency in the business world,” we learn.
“In a conversation with a BBC journalist, I said ‘these are, more or less, tipping points’ [in climate change]. He immediately understood,” Schellnhuber told his profiler.
Schellnhuber capitalised on this with a paper, Tipping Elements in the Earth’s Climate System co-authored with several others. Despite its speculative nature – “subsystems indicated could exhibit threshold-type behavior in response to anthropogenic climate forcing”, we learn. It has been cited over 500 times.
The death of the planet has been greatly exaggerated
Amongst the subsystems discussed are the Arctic sea ice, which could take 10 years to disappear, the collapse of the Gulf Stream (10 years), and the greening of the Sahara Desert (10 years). None look likely today, with global temperatures fairly static (or falling slightly – depending on how you fit the curve) for 15 years.
It was a deeply pessimistic point of view. But Schellnhuber welcomed the climate apocalypse, because he saw human beings as the planet’s enemy – and the planet must come before human life.
“In a very cynical way, it’s a triumph for science because at last we have stabilised something – namely the estimates for the carrying capacity of the planet, namely below 1 billion people,” Schellnhuber told a conference in March 2009. Such a neo-Malthusian vision could only be turned into reality with unprecedented coercion and repression.
Earlier I referred to two competing views of the relationship between man and nature: the enlightenment view of optimism, of taming nature (and looking after it responsibly), and man as a destroyer. Schellnhuber’s pessimism belong firmly in the latter school, and that’s the view that’s dominated policy-making for 40 years. There’s a problem, in that it isn’t one shared that’s by the public; few parents or grandparents pray for their offspring to be worse off, or more less free.
There is little doubting Schellnhuber’s success both as a social networker and an influencer. At the height of the climate panic a few years ago, the sense of urgency became all encompassing, and convinced politicians and the media that these were extraordinary times, requiring extraordinary measures.
He was able to do so because of the media’s familiarity with a book aimed at the marketing business – and some sweeping generalisations. The irony of the story is that by over-dramatising the climate change debate, Schellnhuber may have had the exact opposite that he intended.
Bright British children to be sent to ‘maths schools’
A rather strange idea — but it may be a reasonable response to a shortage of good math teachers
A new generation of maths schools will be created as part of a Government plan to boost Britain’s economic competitiveness, it emerged today.
Around 12 specialist institutions for 16- to 18-year-olds will be opened to give pupils expert tuition under the guidance of university mathematics departments
Unveiling the plans in his Autumn Statement, George Osborne said the colleges would help produce graduates in academic disciplines seen as vital to the country’s economic recovery.
On Tuesday, the Chancellor announced that a total of £600m would be earmarked for 100 new “free schools” – establishments opened and run by parents’ groups, charities and private companies free of local council interference – between 2013/14 and 2014/2015.
Of those, around a dozen will specialise in maths for teenagers, he said. “This will give our most talented young mathematicians the chance to flourish,” Mr Osborne told the Commons. “These ‘Maths Free Schools’ are exactly what Britain needs to match our competitors – and produce more of the engineering and science graduates so important for our longer term economic success.”
But teachers condemned the move. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “At a time of unprecedented economic pressure it is incomprehensible that the Government is committing that sum of funding to creating 100 new free schools when so many existing schools are in desperate need of investment.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “In naked pursuit of the Coalition’s elitist vision of education, 100 free schools and a handful of pupils get £600m while children in 22,000 other schools fight over a few hundred pounds.”
In a further announcement, it was revealed that another £600m would be spent creating additional school places in areas with the greatest “demographic pressures”. It is already feared that many infants are being forced to travel miles to primary school because of an acute shortage of places caused by a baby boom and influx of migrants in some areas. Many schools have been forced to turn hundreds of children away while others have created extra space by educating pupils in mobile classrooms or local church halls.
The biggest pressures have been reported in parts of London and cities such as Bristol and Birmingham.
On Tuesday, Mr Osborne said money would be allocated to places with the greatest need to deliver an additional 40,000 school places between 2012/13 and 2014/15. This comes on top of £800m a year already allocated each year – and an extra £500m for 2011/12.
Banned, the British lingerie advert that was ‘too sexy’ for the side of a bus
The usual “for the children” cry. Unmentioned is that British kids get sex education in their shools which is WAY more explicit than the ad above. And the fact that the complainants grumbled about the ad “objectifying women” tells you who they were: The boiler-suit brigade. No-one would objectify them!
A lingerie advert for Marks & Spencer has been banned for being ‘overtly sexual’. The advert, shown on the side of double-decker buses, pictured a woman on a bed with her legs apart, back arched, one arm above her head and the other touching her thigh.
Fifteen people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about that image, and another for the store.
They said the adverts for the Autograph range of lingerie ‘objectified women’ and were unsuitable for buses as they were ‘sexually suggestive’ and could be seen by children.
The ASA cleared one advert showing models in less suggestive poses, saying that children would ‘understand the poster was advertising lingerie and, as such, the models would not be fully clothed’.
But it said of the other advert: ‘We considered that the image was of an overtly sexual nature and was therefore unsuitable for untargeted outdoor display, as it was likely to be seen by children. We concluded that the advert was socially irresponsible.’