Heart boy dies in power cut

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Health Editor

Doctors who battled to save a young heart patient during a power failure at a London hospital said yesterday that the boy's death was a "coincidence" unrelated to problems with his life-support machine.

Dr Michael Marsh, a consultant paediatrician in intensive care at Guy's Hospital, south London, said that the nine-year-old boy had suffered a heart attack at 9pm on Monday evening, five hours before the main generator and back-up failed at 2am the next morning.

Nursing staff had to operate ventilators manually for 25 minutes for nine children and ten adults who were also in intensive care when the power failed in the central block.

Dr Marsh said manual ventilation was a routine procedure following a heart attack and the boy had been "handbagged" - as the practice was known - for a large part of the evening, in addition to other resuscitation procedures. "You can control from minute to minute very precisely what you're doing as the patient's needs change," he said. "It was a coincidence that it happened when the power was out."

The boy's mother gave permission for treatment to be discontinued and, according to Dr Marsh, accepted that the power failure had not contributed to her son's death.

Dr Marsh said the boy was born with a congenital heart problem and had been a patient at the hospital since infancy.

Tim Matthews, chief executive of the Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital Trust, said none of the patients in intensive care had been adversely affected or denied treatment by the power failure. He said the main power supply control system was being modified.

An inquest into the death of the boy will open at Southwark coroner's court next week.