No liability in freak death

2008-01-15 00:00

The main finding into the probable cause of death of a man who died in a Pietermaritzburg private hospital after a routine operation was revealed by a magistrate yesterday.

State advocate Glen Webber (39), who died in hospital shortly after undergoing a shoulder operation, had a hypoxic (shortage of oxygen in body tissue) event of unknown origin.

This was the main finding of magistrate Brad Osborne, who presided over an inquest into Webber’s death in Medi-Clinic Hospital in March 2002.

A postmortem finding shortly after he died found the cause was hypoxia associated with possible other causes.

Osborne did not ascribe any criminal responsibility to anyone and he exonerated specialist anaesthesiologist Dr J.R. Bhagwan, who cared for Webber before and after his shoulder operation.

Osborne made an open, that is, non-committal finding in regard to the hospital.

Webber was described as moderately obese, weighing 89 kg and was on medication for hypertension and asthma.

Before his operation, he had slipped and fallen on the wet driveway of his home when he had gone outside to meet a fast-food delivery man. In the fall, a muscle was torn from a bone and was reattached during the operation.

Webber’s widow, Karen, told the inquest that seven hours after being told that Glen was doing fine, she was phoned by the hospital to say that he had just died.

She had left the hospital at about 8.10 pm after the operation and had phoned to inquire about his condition at about 10 pm. She was told then that he was doing well.

The next day at about 5 am, a hospital employee phoned her to tell her that her husband had just died.

Karen Webber said that while he was recovering from the operation, he was perspiring so much that the sweat ran down his neck. She had dried it with tissues.

He also complained of pain and nausea and was treated for both.

A nurse who testified said that she did not notice him sweating profusely.

Shortly before his death, Webber received death threats, probably from the connections of an alleged murderer he was prosecuting.

The couple have a son.

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