Wrong blood transfusion led to Hubert Brown’s death
Bar owner Hubert (Hubie) Brown died after being given an unnecessary transfusion of the wrong blood type at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, according to his brother-in-law.
And yesterday Danis Moore criticised Bermuda Hospitals Board for hiring lawyers to try to prevent the Island’s Senior Coroner holding an inquest into Mr Brown’s death.
He told The Royal Gazette: “It makes us feel like things are being covered up or hidden. Although we tried to find how something like this could possibly happen, we have met with just stone walls.
“It’s been as transparent as a frosted light bulb. We would like to know how this could possibly happen. We would like to know that this could never possibly happen again to any family.”
Mr Moore’s sister Eleanor, Mr Brown’s widow, is not well and did not speak to this newspaper.
But her brother said she was bitterly disappointed and left with an “uncomfortable feeling” after BHB issued a writ seeking a judicial review of Senior Coroner Archibald Warner’s decision to order an inquest into the December 2002 death, as we reported yesterday.
“This is the part [the inquest] that is going to get my sister over this final part,” he said. “This is what she needs to come to some resolution. She needs that more than anything.”
A coroner’s inquest is a fact-finding exercise with the aim of determining the cause of a person’s death. Mr Warner holds very few inquests into sudden deaths — just four in the last six years — but told this newspaper he believed one was necessary based on the evidence in this case.
Publicly-funded BHB has hired law firm Trott and Duncan to pursue its claim that the Senior Coroner does not have the power to order an inquest in this case. Mr Warner, through the Attorney General’s Chambers, is contesting the writ.
Mr Moore said his brother-in-law, 66, who owned Hubie’s Bar on Angle Street, was a ‘well-loved” character who “made so many friends around the world”.
He said the family had kept quiet about the circumstances of his “awful” death because they did not want to hinder any inquiry into how it happened or cast a negative light on the Island’s only hospital.
But he said the latest developments, after a police investigation lasting more than a decade, had convinced them it was time to push for answers.
“I just feel that it’s been kept from my sister,” he said. “She’s the one who is going through it. She talks to me, she lets me know her heart, and her heart is heavy right now. Although she wishes this would all go [away], the feeling of finding out how and why is more prevalent than letting it lie.”
Mr Moore said his brother-in-law was a diabetic who was being looked after at KEMH when he was given a blood transfusion meant for someone else. As well as not needing a transfusion, he was given the wrong blood cells.
“He was an O and they gave him A+ cells, which took his life. In a matter of half an hour to 45 minutes, he was dead.”
He said the family “had an idea” as to how it happened. “They told us it was a mix-up of names. There was another Mr Brown down there. They packed him with A cells and he was O and that was devastating. He didn’t even have to have a transfusion. He shouldn’t have had a transfusion.
“She [my sister] had just left the hospital to go home. Upon arrival at home, she was there no more than ten or 15 minutes, when they called her back with this sad story.
“They had been there talking 15 minutes before. She got home and she couldn’t believe the call.”
Mr Moore said his brother-in-law’s death was a huge shock. “He was still going around. He was coming around to the job site and sitting up talking and keeping everybody company and now and then he would go down to the bar to keep the customers flowing and happy. But that all changed in a matter of minutes.
“We never really wanted to go publicly with this case. We were assured by the police and the investigation that we would have an answer soon but it went for years.”
As far as Mr Moore is concerned the demand for an inquest is not about opening the door to any civil action against the hospital, rather he wants his sister to have some closure, especially now she is in ‘ill health’.
“We would just like it to be all over and gone,” he said. “It’s not about the finances. She really wants some rest from this whole thing. The thing is, she has to get over this. She has to put this to rest.”
He said he did not know why the police investigation took so long but was aware that officers had travelled to Switzerland to interview two former KEMH nurses.
“The police came back and told us ‘they will not come back to the Island to give any information unless they were granted immunity [from prosecution]’.”
A BHB spokeswoman said on Tuesday: “This tragic case is 11 years old and was already dealt with some time ago. BHB is questioning whether the Coroner has the lawful authority to hold such an inquiry and compel witnesses to appear before it.”
She added yesterday: “By filing the proceedings which seek judicial review in the Hubert Brown case, the Bermuda Hospitals Board is seeking to determine whether the Coroner has jurisdiction to carry out an inquiry into this matter.
“The BHB has not lost sight of the fact that there was a tragic passing of a much loved individual in 2002. For that reason the BHB fully disclosed what had happened concerning Mr Brown to the Coroner and to Mr Brown’s family, based on a full investigation conducted after Mr Brown’s passing.
“The Coroner signed a death certificate in 2008, which determined the cause of death. The BHB subsequently entered into an agreement with the family, settling with them out of court in 2010. The terms of that agreement are, and remain, confidential.
“The BHB has otherwise reviewed the legislation which governs Coroners in Bermuda and does not see how it is that the Coroner is empowered to hold an inquest in this situation. It is for that reason alone that the BHB has sought judicial review to determine this issue once and for all.”
Police have said they will respond today to a question about why their inquiry took 11 years.
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