Devastated parents watched daughter ‘starve to death in front of them’

The devastated parents of a young woman say they watched her "starve to death" after she was admitted to hospital for a routine eye operation.

Patricia and Ken Booth said the premature deaths of people with learning disabilities "have to stop" after an inquest concluded neglect contributed to the passing of Laura Booth aged 21.

She died at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital in 2016, Yorkshire Live reports.

The couple said: "This has to stop. It's not right that learning disabled people die decades prematurely."

Assistant coroner Abigal Combes concluded that doctors' inadequate management of Laura's feeding at the hospital was a "gross failure of her care".

She added that clinicians' lack of compliance with the Mental Capacity Act was "unlawful".

Mr and Mrs Booth told the inquest that doctors ignored their daughter and excluded them from decision

Mr and Mrs Booth told the inquest how doctors ignored their daughter and excluded them from decision-making after she was admitted in September 2016.

In their statement, the couple said: “We feel that Laura starved to death and the staff did not listen to us. We also feel like no one was coordinating Laura’s care or making decisions.

"No one listened to Laura, or to us, as experts in Laura.

"No one seems to understand that the risks of not feeding Laura meant that she was starving, as she died in front of us.

"We cannot tell you how painful that is to live with."

Laura was born with a genetic condition called partial trisomy 13 and had a number of life-limiting complications including learning disabilities.

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The couple received an apology from the coroner for having to fight for an inquest into their daughter's death.

In a narrative conclusion, Ms Combes said: "Among other illnesses, she also developed malnutrition due to inadequate management of her nutritional needs.

"Her death was contributed to by neglect."

The assistant coroner concluded that the hospital had acted "unlawfully" in the decisions it made about Laura's feeding. She added that she remained "gravely concerned" about senior doctors' understanding of the Mental Capacity Act.

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Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said they acknowledged decisions around feeding Laura "were a contributory factor to the timing of her death" and said they were "truly sorry".

Chief executive Kirsten Major said: "Laura was gravely ill with sepsis and this was the cause of her death, but we acknowledge that the decisions on the best method of feeding her were a contributory factor to the timing of her death.

"Laura was not starved during her stay and our staff worked hard to try and do what they thought was the right thing.

"However, our processes at the time were not robust enough which meant that there was not clear decision making and consequently, Laura and her family were let down.

"We regret what happened and we have already overhauled our nutrition service and processes so there is now a clear lead decision-maker to review and expedite actions for patients with complex nutritional needs.

"We are truly sorry for what happened and we will be responding to all of the Coroner’s recommendations to prevent this situation happening again."

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