'Dead' woman's family may sue over blunder

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The Independent Online
THE FAMILY of a woman found alive in a mortuary after being pronounced dead by a GP yesterday spoke for the first time of their devastation over the remarkable chain of events.

As Daphne Banks, a 61-year-old farmer's wife from Stonely, Cambridgeshire, recovered in hospital, her family was still struggling to come to terms with the blunder. "The family are deeply distressed and devastated about recent events," said their solicitor Anthony Northey.

Mrs Banks and her husband Claude, who have been married for 40 years and have three grown-up children, were considering legal action, their solicitor said in a statement from the family. "Once all the facts are known they will be considering their position," he said, adding that Mr Banks was still too upset to talk about the incident. "Claude Banks is a man who loves his wife," said Mr Northey.

He said Mr Banks had noticed that his wife - who suffered from epilepsy - did not seem well in the early hours of New Year's Day. When she collapsed, a general practitioner was called to their home at College Farm, in Hatchet Lane, Stonely, near Huntingdon, and she was declared dead. She was then taken to the mortuary at nearby Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

It was while she was there that an undertaker noticed signs of life and alerted medical staff. "At 6am on New Year's Day the police informed the family that Daphne was still alive, which was a great relief to the family," said Mr Northey.

Mrs Banks, who remained in the hospital's intensive care unit until Thursday, has now been transferred to a general ward and is expected to make a full recovery.

Mr Northey was accompanied by Mrs Banks' son-in-law Ian Peck, and her daughter Sally who refused to answer further questions.

Earlier Tim Bryson, duty manager at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, said Mrs Banks's condition was improving. He said: "She is making good progress and has been moved onto one of our general wards. It is up to the doctors when she will be allowed to go home, but she is conscious and has been receiving visitors." Meanwhile, the duty doctor at Great Staughton surgery, Dr Stephanie Johnson, would neither confirm nor deny that Mrs Banks was a patient there.

The senior doctor at the practice, Dr David Roberts, was said to be away and unavailable for comment.

Dr Johnson said: "The doctor concerned is very upset."

She said doctors' oaths to patients made it impossible for her to give any firm details.

An inquiry into the mistake has been launched by the Cambridge and Huntingdon Health Commission, but its chief executive, Stephen Thornton, said it could take no action against the GP involved.

Mr Banks, who is president of the Huntingdonshire Cricket Club, is said to be unable to come to terms at the moment with what has happened.