A family's plea to have a disabled Coast man put into palliative care were ignored.
A family's plea to have a disabled Coast man put into palliative care were ignored. Contributed

Family told palliative care 'just for cancer patients'

SLEEPING on a mattress and reduced to crawling across the floor, a Coast man with cerebral palsy died in a hospital despite his family's pleas to have him transferred to palliative care.

David Orton, 41, had a history of cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, anxiety and gastrointestinal problems including constipation.

The Coroners Court recently found that 18 months before Mr Orton's death in 2016, his condition had deteriorated and it was "evident" he should have been moved from his care facility in Currimundi.

He had lost weight despite eating "like a horse", was increasingly agitated and had chronic abdominal pain and constipation.

Mr Orton was also seen to frequently "writhe" his right shoulder which his mother and carers believed was pain, but medical staff claimed it was tardive dyskinesia due to previous medication use.

By the time of his death, Mr Orton was sleeping on a mattress on the floor as his decreased mobility meant he often crawled across the floor.

While in hospital for the final time, he developed a fever and tachycardia.

Mr Orton died four days later.

The report listed Mr Orton's cause of death as cerebral hypoxia and bronchopneumonia with toxic megacolon, cerebral palsy and salmonella typhimurium infection as contributing factors.

Mr Orton didn't have a case manager until one to two weeks prior to his death, meaning there was no consistency in his care and "his deterioration was minimised or not detected", according to his family.

It was also reported that staff refused to discuss palliative care with the family as it was "just for cancer patients".

"His family further allege that hospital staff were not proactive and discharged Mr Orton on many occasions without effective pain relief and without conducting tests they felt were obvious and necessary for his diagnosis," the report read.

Mr Orton's family said they thanked the carers and medical staff who helped him over the years through his "long and difficult journey", although they were concerned he didn't receive a timely diagnosis or palliative care in the final weeks of his life.

They recommended improvements such as a review of diagnostics for non-verbal disabled people and increased communication between medical staff, patients and families.