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Wednesday, 4 June 2003
Page: 15925


Dr LAWRENCE (9:17 AM) —Last night when I was speaking on this Health Care (Appropriation) Amendment Bill 2003, I was about to read into the Hansard record a case of an adverse event in our pressured hospitals. In this case, a man contacted me about the death of his wife just after she had delivered their sixth child. In order to protect their privacy I will not mention their names or that of the hospital, but I will read from his own account. He states:

The cord had broken and then the 2 midwives spent the next 15 minutes trying to rip it out with a pair of metal clamps. My wife then haemorrhaged and the maternity doctor was called in. He injected a substance into my wife's right thigh.

They were not told what the substance was nor what it was for, and it was not documented in any of the medical records. He said that his wife:

... was then transferred to theatre for an Emergency Removal Of Placenta. On the specialist report done for my solicitors the young anaesthetist went against his superior's wishes ... and induced my wife, leaving her without oxygen for 14 minutes resulting in her suffering global brain trauma. He also administered a large amount of Adrenalin resulting in her suffering a cardiac arrest.

The young doctor was apparently not qualified to perform this procedure without supervision. The husband has heard many differing accounts of what happened to his wife, and the staff who were present have given conflicting evidence. To add to the distress suffered by this man and his family, at the coronial inquest into his wife's death he saw her previous medical records, which classified her as an anaesthetic risk. This was never communicated to either her or her husband. He says in conclusion:

My dear wife was never given this information and not once but twice was denied the type of care each Australian is supposed to receive in the health system in this country, resulting in her losing her life.

He asked me to stress the human cost of what has happened, since we members of parliament had the chance to address this horrific problem in the health system in Australia. As he said, his wife is only one of thousands who die from preventable causes like this every year in our hospitals. He and his children have to live every day with the failure of government to properly fund and support our public hospitals. In my view, it is simply not good enough.