Obese boy’s death examined by coroner

FILE IMAGE ONLYAT the age of seven he weighed almost 50 kilograms and had a body mass index roughly double what it should have been.

Despite hospital staff providing his parents with a weight management plan, the boy put on another six kilograms in the six weeks after he left John Hunter Children’s Hospital and two years later he was dead due to complications from obesity.

Newcastle Coroners Court is examining the death, including the role his parents, the Department of Family and Community Services and the NSW Department of Education and Training may have played.

The Newcastle boy was rushed to John Hunter Hospital on September 17, 2010, where he died 12 days later at the age of 10.

He suffered a massive brain injury due to lack of oxygen, which was related to his morbid obesity, Ian Bourke, Counsel Assisting the Inquest, said.

The child, who cannot be identified, had a lengthy history of health problems that were detected by a number of doctors and health professionals in the years leading up to his death, the inquest heard.

He was the subject of four ‘‘risk of harm’’ reviews conducted by the Department of Family and Community Services between 2008 and 2010, but on each occasion the department decided to close those reviews and pursue the needs of other children who were deemed to be at greater risk of harm, Mr Bourke said.

The reviews were conducted because of concerns over the boy’s morbid obesity, other health issues and his parents’ drug use, the inquest heard.

The boy suffered from sleep apnoea related to his obesity, and by mid-2009 he weighed close to 70 kilograms.

Numerous appointments were made for him with specialists and other health professionals, including a surgeon to decide whether the boy should have his tonsils and adenoids removed. However, the court heard that many appointments were missed and the surgery never took place.

In kindergarten the boy missed 44 days of school and in year 1 he missed 68.

In year 2 he missed 98 days, in year 3 he missed 101 and at the time of his death he had already missed 103 days of the 2010 school year.

On at least one occasion when the school inquired about his absences the boy’s sleep apnoea was offered as an explanation, Mr Bourke said.

On other occasions when the school said criminal action could be taken, the parents promised the child’s attendance would improve.

The state homicide squad investigated the death, but the circumstances leading up to the boy’s admission to John Hunter Hospital in September 2010 remained unclear, Mr Bourke said.

It appeared that the boy was found slumped on a lounge before he stopped breathing during the journey to the hospital.

Doctors were able to revive him and put him on life support, but after 12 minutes or more without oxygen he had suffered a massive brain injury, Mr Bourke said.

The inquest before Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott continues.

Comments are closed.