Inquest jury sent out to consider if four-year-old's sepsis death was 'contributed to by neglect'

A jury hearing the inquest into the death of four-year-old Sheldon Farnell has been sent to consider a conclusion after four days of evidence.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 5:27 pm

In 2018 Sheldon Gary Farnell was struck down by overwhelming sepsis hours after he was discharged from Sunderland Royal Hospital.

A jury now has to decide whether the youngster died of ‘natural causes’ or ‘natural causes contributed to by neglect’.

Following more than two hours of deliberation, the jury asked two questions to senior coroner Derek Winter– for clarification on what is meant by ‘basic medical attention was obvious’ and ‘how long medical staff are responsible for Sheldon after he left the hospital’.

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Sheldon Farnell died aged 4 of overwhelming sepsis

The jury will continue deliberations tomorrow.

Over three days, the inquest into his death heard that the little boy would have survived had he received antibiotics before he was discharged from hospital on Sunday, November 25, between 12.30pm and 1pm.

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The jury heard how blood results confirmed Sheldon had Group A streptococcus – which can cause sepsis – at 12.59pm and a call was made by a consultant microbiologist to Dr Niresha Sirinanda on the ward after the family left the hospital with the youngster.

Sheldon pictured with mum Katrina Keegan

Doctors, who attended to Sheldon during his 36-hour stay at the hospital, say he appeared ‘clinically well’ and his condition had improved since he was first brought in for treatment.

The decision was therefore made that Sheldon could go home as interim results – which suggested a Coccus bacteria was in his bloodstream – were believed to be contaminated.

Dr Geoffery Lawson, the paediatric consultant at the time who discharged Sheldon, said he did not appreciate the severity of his illness after results confirmed an infection in his blood and that will be his ‘lifelong regret’.

The jury heard how he also made the decision not to contact police to trace the family when he was called by Dr Sirinanda, a senior paediatric trainee, at 9pm with news she had been unable to contact the family.

He had told Dr Sirinanda it could wait for the GP to be contacted for details the following day.

At home Sheldon’s condition worsened and by the early hours of Monday morning (November 26) at 4am, Sheldon was rushed back into hospital with mum Katrina Keegan and grandmother Nicola Farnell.

They were told the next 12 hours were ‘critical’ but at 8.42am Sheldon died having suffered a cardiac arrest.

Before evidence began on Monday, March 15, the jury heard a statement from Sheldon’s mum Katrina Keegan. It read: "[Sheldon] was such a loving little lad who adored his family, being with his loved ones his favourite thing. We were all so close.

"He was so caring and had a love of animals, we bought him a guinea pig as a surprise – his look of sheer joy when he saw it will always be one of my most treasure memories – he was so happy!

"On the last day of his far too short life, my son begged me ‘to not let him die,’ no four year old should even know about death, my baby boy knew he was facing it.”

Jury deliberations continue.

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