A London-based man of Indian origin, who tragically lost his son due to what he describes as a series of medical errors, has recently established a new charitable foundation to advocate for the rights of patients.
In recent weeks, Jay Patel officially founded “Patients Lives Matter” following the passing of his 30-year-old son, Balram, as a result of alleged deficiencies in treatment and care received at a London hospital. Subsequently, the coroner’s office has initiated an investigation into the circumstances leading up to Balram’s untimely death last month.
In a mission statement released for the newly formed foundation, Balram’s father expressed his anguish, stating, “Balram died in a huge amount of pain and discomfort, and before his time, due to a cascade of errors and failures in treatment and care from the hospital consultant and a number of staff.”
He further conveyed his concern regarding the government’s response, saying, “We feel very strongly that the government is taking steps ‘after the event’ so as to see what went wrong with patient care and/or patient treatment. However, totally inadequate steps are available at the time of the incident to rectify the failure and ensure little or no harm comes to the patient. Whether you are the patient, a parent, a family member, a friend, or none of the above, we want to hear from you.”
Patel has expressed his determination to advocate for change by lobbying Parliament, aiming to ensure that his son’s tragic experience leads to meaningful reforms. His son, who endured six life-threatening conditions and had a developmental delay, with a mental age of approximately eight to ten years, holds a special place in their hearts.
Jay Patel fondly recalled, “He was our baby. He was happiness personified, loved life to the fullest and made everyone he came in contact with happy, as well as those that didn’t even meet him but just heard his voice or knew about him.”
However, Patel went on to express deep sorrow over the loss of their beloved Balram, stating, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our Balram. But, we are mortified that he passed in a huge amount of unnecessary pain, before his time and this was due to the lack of care, inappropriate medical treatment, and delay in appropriate treatment. A coroner’s investigation has now been opened, and the coroner is investigating the delays in Balram’s treatment and the treatment itself.”
Through the “Patients Lives Matter” initiative, Patel is advocating for straightforward measures to facilitate swift second opinions on treatment plans, overseen by an independent body.
This call for an independent means of obtaining a second medical opinion is in line with the broader campaign for what has become known as “Martha’s Rule”. This initiative was championed by the mother of Martha, a 13-year-old who tragically succumbed to sepsis while in hospital in 2021. Notably, the UK government has thrown its support behind this campaign, with Health Secretary Steve Barclay expressing his commitment to its implementation.
An inquiry led by the coroner’s office has been initiated regarding the case of the 30-year-old individual of Indian origin who passed away in a prominent UK hospital last month.
Martha’s Rule provides patients and their families with a legal entitlement to seek a second opinion from senior medical experts within the same hospital if they believe their concerns are being disregarded, particularly if the patient’s condition is deteriorating rapidly.
Jay Patel disclosed that Balram’s lungs became fatally congested, leading to his demise at St Thomas’ Hospital in London on August 9. He also mentioned that the coroner’s office has initiated an investigation into the quality of care and any delays in treatment provided.
According to the report, the hospital initially attributed Balram’s cause of death to pulmonary oedema (accumulation of fluid in the lungs) only after Jay sought intervention from the coroner’s office.
The coroner’s office conducts investigations into all deaths where the cause is unknown, when there are suspicions that the death may not be due to natural causes, or when an inquiry is deemed necessary for other reasons, as outlined on a UK government website.
Patel recounted that his son, who was born with only half of a functioning heart, initially received oral diuretics, aimed at reducing fluid buildup in the body, during his hospital stay. However, due to their ineffectiveness, medical professionals shifted to intravenous (IV) diuretics.
Jay explained that because of a COVID-19 outbreak, district nurses were unavailable to administer the IV diuretics at home. Consequently, healthcare providers decided to use an alternative method of administering the diuretics through a syringe pump, allowing them to diffuse through the tissue rather than entering the bloodstream directly, as is typically the case with IV administration.
Despite Jay’s efforts to secure a bariatric surgeon who was willing to administer the diuretics using the agreed-upon method at home, no contact was ever made with the surgeon, according to the report.
Meanwhile, despite Jay’s objections due to his son’s prior experiences with oral diuretics, medical professionals made the decision to discharge Balram from the hospital with these medications.
Jay Patel revealed that he had requested a second opinion, but this request was denied. He emphasised that if “Martha’s Law” had been implemented in a manner that allowed for a prompt response to second opinion requests, he firmly believes that Balram might still be alive today.
A spokesperson representing Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust expressed their condolences to Balram’s family, acknowledging the complexity of his health needs and the extensive multidisciplinary team that had cared for him throughout his life. They reassured that any concerns raised by the family would be thoroughly investigated.