The Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) has absolved its doctors of negligence in the death of a patient, Mrs Ngozi Udebu.
It said there was nothing the doctors or nurses did or did not do that could be described as the cause of death.
According to the Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC), Prof Femi Fasanmade, Mrs Udebu was admitted on March 26 and died about 51 hours later.
“She had presented with abdominal pain from her monthly menstrual periods shortly after 40 days of religious fasting. She had taken an overdose of Piroxicam (50 mg thrice daily for two days) a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killer, which is known to be associated with side effects of inflammation or ulceration of the stomach even at a regular dose,” he said.
The late Mrs Udebu, Fasanmade said, was seen by a medical team, including an experienced consultant physician, and her treatment for peptic ulcer after ultrasound scans and other tests began.
The late patient, he said, started having difficulty breathing, few hours to her death and was given oxygen therapy, which continued until she died.
Fasanmade explained that while making the rounds to see how the patients fared in the night, a nurse noticed she had stopped breathing and “attempts to resuscitate her failed”.
He said: “There was no distress call by the patient, other patients or any other person around her in the ward prior to her sudden death. In view of the strange and sudden death of our patient, the managing team immediately requested for an autopsy to unravel the immediate and remote causes of her demise as is standard lay practise in such cases of unusual death. This autopsy was prompted by the LUTH.
“The autopsy preliminary report demonstrated evidence of asphyxia though no foreign body or evidence of strangulation was found. Further specialised histology report obtained later confirmed fluid in the terminal air passages which support aspiration of food, fluids or secretions. The stomach was inflamed but not actively bleeding or perforated which is not surprising, considering that she was already on anti peptic ulcer therapy.”
He said as doctors, they could understand why a layman may be confounded by the apparent disparity in the admitting diagnosis and the final pathological diagnosis. “The pathological diagnosis confirmed the actual and final cause of death as the ulcers were already healing.
“A reconstruction of the events leading to her demise can be deduced thus: A known patient with dysmenorrhoea who was fasting took an overdose of non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, the analgesics suppressed the menstrual pain but damaged the stomach leading to excruciating pain in the abdomen which brought her to LUTH.
“Our doctors correctly diagnosed gastritis promptly and gave appropriate treatment. Ulcers do not show up on ultrasound scans explaining the negative ultrasound scan findings. The pains started to abate by the second day. However, on the day of demise, while the patient was asleep late at night, she most probably aspirated food, throat secretions or water leading to bronchospasm and respiratory distress which rapidly culminated in her death. She was found dead and all attempts to revive her failed,” Fasunmade said.