Inquiry demands after woman's body left in hospital mortuary for six weeks

6 December 2021, 20:03

The QEUH has been under-fire after a post-mortem examination could not determine the cause of death of a woman who's body had been left for six weeks
The QEUH has been under-fire after a post-mortem examination could not determine the cause of death of a woman who's body had been left for six weeks. Picture: Alamy
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

An inquiry has been demanded after a woman's body was left in a mortuary for six weeks, meaning a post-mortem examination could not determine the cause of death.

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Charlene McGregor, 41, died at Glasgow's troubled Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) while being treated for a cyst behind her ear on March 12 of this year.

A toxicology screening later carried out by police found Ms McGregor died from a methadone overdose.

However her body was left in the hospital mortuary, and her family allege they were told by staff they "forgot about her".

Ms McGregor's brother William said his sister had been turning her life around and had been on a methadone programme, with her prescription being reduced, before she went into the hospital.

"She genuinely seemed to want to take steps away from drugs," he said.

"She shouldn't have died the way she did and we still don't know why it happened.

"The night before she passed away she had been asking the nurses to give her anything to help her sleep. That was at about 2am. By 6am, she was dead."

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Following Ms McGregor's unexpected death, he said the family were told the post-mortem examination might take a bit longer than normal due to Covid.

After six weeks the family contacted the hospital only to learn that it had not yet been carried out and were told staff had forgotten about it.

He said his partner and his mother had met with clinicians after the error was revealed and there had been an apology.

"They said they forgot about her. Right away, the alarm bells started," he said.

"They said because she had been lying there in a freezer for six weeks the post-mortem could come back inconclusive. And that's exactly what happened.

"I can't help wondering: if we hadn't contacted them, would my sister still be lying there?"

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The QEUH has been under-fire for a number of weeks as a result of deaths allegedly due to hospital-acquired infections, with Scottish Labour urging the Scottish Government to step in and take over the management of the board.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's health spokesperson, said an inquiry was needed into "this tragic case".

She said she found what had happened to Ms McGregor "shocking and completely unacceptable".

"There needs to be a full investigation into what went wrong so no other families are put through this ordeal.

"Crucially there needs to be an inquiry into how Charlene overdosed while under hospital care and why her post-mortem was overlooked for so long.

"This is not the standard of care we expect in the Scottish NHS and I want things to improve in the future for Charlene's family and others who may find themselves in similar situations."

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A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Ms McGregor as they continue to mourn her death."

A Significant Adverse Event Review (SAER) is under way into the circumstances surrounding Ms McGregor's death.

"We met earlier this year with her family to apologise for the delay in the post-mortem examination taking place and issues around her death registration.

"We will contact the family when the SAER is concluded and offer to meet with them to explain its findings."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We extend our sincere condolences to Charlene's family.

"NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have rightly apologised for the delay in a post-mortem taking place, and, while we can’t comment on individual cases, we understand the Board are carrying out a Significant Adverse Event Review and we would expect NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to share the findings with Charlene's family once the Review has completed."