Parents consider legal action despite coroner ruling out negligence in death of Sunderland leukaemia patient

The parents of a courageous cancer sufferer who died after he was admitted to hospital with a chest infection say they are considering legal action - despite a coroner ruling out any negligence in his death.

Leukaemia patient Daniel James Homer, 22, of Silksworth, had relapsed after a stem cell transfer from his brother and was also suffering from graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), in which the patient’s own white blood cells attack the body.

Daniel Homer

Daniel Homer

An inquest at Sunderland Coroner’s Court heard Daniel had been unwell shortly before his death and his father David had rung an emergency advice number at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital on Thursday, February 23, 2017, but no consultant had been available.

A transplant nurse, Stephen Fox, had promised to get someone to ring back, but Mr Homer had had to ring back himself the following day and had been told to bring Daniel in for clinic the following Monday if he was still poorly.

"I was waiting for them to say ‘bring him in.’ It was an emergency number. Daniel had said he was not well. The instructions were ‘If you are not well, ring us’," he said

A post mortem by Home Office Pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton found Daniel had died as a result of multi-organ failure caused by a chest infection, due to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and with GvHD as a contributory factor.

Mary and David Homer

Mary and David Homer

The infection had developed very rapidly and there was no sign of any infection that could have been picked up when Daniel was last examined on February 13.

Coroner Derek Winter paid tribute to Mr Homer and his wife Mary’s determination to fight for their son.

But he said there was no reason to believe anything could have been done to avoid what happened to Daniel.

While there may have been a 'conflict of recollection' about the phone conversation 'neither Mr Homer, Mrs Homer, Daniel or, indeed Mr Fox had any contemplation of the possibly of Daniel going into hospital,' he said.

"Mr and Mrs Homer have accepted there was a natural ending to Daniel’s life, but they suggest, in terms, that there was an element of neglect.

"The medical opinion, and in particular from Dr Bolton, was the outcome for Daniel was, in all likelihood, going to be the same.

"I can’t identify from the evidence any failure, let alone a gross failure, that would justify me making a finding of neglect.

"I can’t find there was a missed opportunity that would, in all likelihood, have made a difference to the outcome. Daniel died from a naturally occurring disease process running its natural course."

Conclusion: NATURAL CAUSE

*Speaking after the inquest, David Homer said the family felt there was “still a case to answer” over Daniel’s death.

Asked "Is it correct to say you are considering legal action?’" he replied: "Oh, absolutely.

"There is still a case to answer. The fact is we have lost - it does not make any difference as far as we are concerned."

The inquest hearing was just another stage in dealing with Daniel’s death for the family, said Mr Homer.

"Today won’t answer any questions," he said.

"It is not going to help us to sleep. It is just another stage we are going through.

During the hearing, he described the music, car and electronics-crazy son he had lost: "Daniel was a son to be proud of," he said.

"It was a privilege to have Daniel. He was loved by all - anybody who met him was touched by him."

Daniel and brother Jack had been devoted, he said: "Two brothers could not have loved each other more.

"They never argued. They loved each other- they just did."

A statement from Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals Trust said: "Our thoughts are with Mr Homer’s family at this difficult time and we would like again to offer our sincere condolences to them.

"Our staff always try to provide the best possible care to all of our patients. So we take the death of any of our patients very seriously.

"Despite highly dedicated treatment from the expert team at Freeman Hospital, Daniel’s leukaemia relapsed and sadly, he succumbed to known complications."