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Family’s Three-Year Campaign for Justice Following ‘Avoidable’ Death of Grandmother

Jan 13th, 2015

A coroner has ruled that the death of a Spalding grandmother could have been prevented had she not been discharged from hospital without the lifesaving surgery she required.

Mrs Muriel Coupland, 66 – known as Ann to family and friends – died in September 2011 at Peterborough City Hospital from septicaemia caused by a bowel perforation.

David Heming, the Senior Coroner for Peterborough, ruled that on ‘a balance of probability, had a surgical intervention been undertaken during an inpatient admission, death would have been prevented’.

Mrs Coupland’s husband John, and his family, had consulted Sally-Ann Robinson of Langleys Solicitors, Lincoln – specialist medical negligence solicitors – regarding the circumstances of Mrs Coupland’s death.

Mr Coupland, 69, a retired sales engineer, said: “I wasn’t happy about the circumstances of Ann’s death and asked the Coroner about an inquest. I wanted justice for all that I had lost and my wife had lost.

“Ann and I were happily married for 48 years. She has missed the weddings of two grandchildren and the birth of four great-grandchildren with another one due at the end of January.

“Ann would still be with us today enjoying her family but for the lack of treatment at Peterborough City Hospital.”

Mr Coupland added: “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I and my family have been through in these last three years.”

Sally-Ann Robinson commented: “In this case the Coroner kindly obtained the permission of the Chief Coroner to open an inquest several years after the death when the family’s investigations revealed the true circumstances and that death was avoidable.

“Thankfully, a statutory ‘duty of candour’ has now been introduced requiring an NHS body to act in an open and transparent way. In this case, death was avoidable and this should have been brought to the attention of the family and the Coroner at the time. This would have avoided the years of upset and distress that Mr Coupland and his family have had to go through in bringing matters to light.”

Mrs Coupland was a playgroup worker for a number of years before working in horticulture from which she retired aged 63.


The inquest heard that Mrs Coupland was first admitted to the hospital on 18 August 2011 with severe abdominal pain and a CT scan showed an acute large bowel obstruction. This should have led to further investigations and surgical intervention. Instead, Mrs Coupland was discharged on 25 August 2011 with an outpatient appointment for a colonoscopy.

In early hours of 30 August, Mrs Coupland suffered a marked deterioration in her condition. Mr Coupland rang 999 but this was not assessed as an emergency. Eventually an out of hours doctor arranged an ambulance but by the time Mrs Coupland arrived at hospital, she was severely ill with suspected sepsis.

She had suffered a perforation of the bowel developing overwhelming sepsis and multi-organ failure. Mrs Coupland died on 1 September 2011.

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