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Mother to sue GP over death of son

THE MOTHER of a nine-year- old boy who died hours after a doctor decided he was not ill enough to need hospital treatment is preparing a High Court action alleging negligence.

Elaine Milnes believes her son, Paul Sturman, would still be alive if he had been admitted to hospital soon after he became unwell. Her view is supported by a consultant paediatrician.

A first inquest into the boy's death was told that Mrs Milnes became concerned in January when Paul started to vomit and suffer from diarrhoea. At about 2pm she telephoned her GP practice in Watford, and spoke to Dr Jennifer Selway. She told Dr Selway that Paul had a history of constipation. The doctor decided a home visit was not necessary but told Mrs Milnes to phone back if she was still worried later.

After three hours, when Paul's vomiting had not abated and his temperature had fallen, Mrs Milnes again rang Dr Selway, who arrived within minutes and arranged for Paul to be admitted to Watford General Hospital. But then, the inquest was told, Paul walked from the sofa to the lavatory and Dr Selway decided he need not go to hospital.

By 9pm, when Paul's condition had deteriorated further, Mrs Milnes rang the hospital, which sent an ambulance. Before it arrived Paul collapsed, his hands turned blue and he stopped breathing. He was pronounced dead at the hospital with the primary causes recorded as intestinal obstruction and faecal impaction.

Two inquests were held in January because the 11-member jury at the first could only reach a decision of lack of care by a majority of seven to four, and no more than two jurors can dissent for a minority verdict to be valid.

The first inquest was told by Dr Michael Williams, a consultant paediatrician at Watford General, that Paul's life might well have been saved had he been admitted at 5pm. At the second hearing the jury returned the verdict that Paul died of natural causes.

This verdict failed to satisfy Mrs Milnes, who has applied for legal aid to bring a civil action against Dr Selway for alleged negligence. 'I am so bitter. Paul was fit and healthy. For him to go like he did was not right,' she said.

Rex Forrester, the solicitor acting for Dr Selway, said neither he nor his client could comment.