Hackney man “went through hell” after failed stomach cancer op

Poplar Coroners Court

Poplar Coroners Court - Credit: Archant

The family of a man with cancer, who went through six-weeks of “hell” when an operation to remove his stomach went wrong, have questioned whether he should have undergone surgery in the first place.

David Berridge was diagnosed with gastric cancer in February this year, and doctors gave him six months to live unless he had a total gastrectomy, which he was warned could also be fatal if he succumbed to an internal leak.

An inquest into Mr Berridge’s death at Poplar Coroner’s Court, heard how the mobile caretaker who lived in Graham Road, had the operation at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel on March 13.

But cancer consultants Mr Kesava Mannur and Mr Bijendra Patel were unable to join his food pipe to his small intestine with staples by keyhole surgery because his tissue was “soggy”.

An attempt to stitch the muscles together also failed, but finally they hoped a third attempt to join the organs through open surgery was successful.

However three days later it became apparent that Mr Berridge was suffering from an internal leak, and over the next six weeks he underwent more tests, scans and surgical procedures to insert drains and stents.

Sepsis set in, making his major organs including his lungs and kidneys pack up, and he died on April 26, aged 60.

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His brothers, sisters, sister-in-law and other family members attended the inquest, and questioned whether Mr Berridge – who suffered from lung and heart disease – should have had the surgery at all.

His sister said: “We watched him go through hell, within a week or so he was on a tracheotomy because he couldn’t breath on his own.”

His brother added: “I spoke to people throughout the time David was in hospital, it was going on a long time, I said, “Where are we going with this? Where is his quality of life?

“The obvious was there very early on, it seemed to be a lot of playing around when the end was there.”

But Mr Manuur insisted he had warned Mr Berridge of the risks, and considered him healthy enough to undergo surgery.

The consultant, who has been doing oesophagus surgery for 25 years, said: “If I had any doubt I wouldn’t have taken him.

“I don’t think there’s anything I would have done differently. But I feel very unhappy he died under my watch.

“We make it mechanically intact but it’s the body that has to heal finally.”

Mr Patel added: “At the time I was hoping - we do treat patients like that all the time, some of them do survive, some of them don’t, I do appreciate his kidney was failing, his lungs were failing, but some of them pull through.”

Postmortem results showed Mr Berridge was suffering from not just one internal leak but two.

Coroner Mary Hassell ruled he died of multiple organ failure following potentially life saving surgery for an otherwise fatal disease.

She said: “If he didn’t have surgery he had probably less that six months to live, it had the potential to save his life, and given those statistics I think most people would have undergone surgery.

“But it came with significant risk - there was a risk of a leak of the joint of operation of five percent, and once it leak most people would have had a 50-50 chance, but he had less because of his heart and lung condition, so the odds were stacked against him by then.”

She said his family’s concerns whether he should have undergone surgery were “valid”, adding: “But faced with a disease that’s going to kill you and an operation that might kill you I think most people would go for the operation.

“The second (concern) is once he started to go wrong should there have been a decision at an earlier stage to keep him comfortable and allow him to go peacefully.

“I think it’s difficult, doctors wanted to do their best, but for family members it was a very difficult thing to watch.”