Doctors missed 11 chances to treat boy, nine, before he died of asthma, coroner hears

Nadia Khomami
Michael Uriely collapsed in the early hours of 25 August and never regained consciousness. Photograph: Family Handout/PA

There were 11 opportunities to treat a nine-year-old chess champion in the months before he died of chronic asthma, an inquest has heard.

Michael Uriely, the national chess champion from St John’s Wood, London, was taken to the Royal Free hospital twice in the days before his death after he suffered violent coughing and vomiting fits which left him struggling to breathe.

Michael died on 25 August 2015, five days after being discharged from the hospital for the second time. In the months before his death he was also seen by NHS GPs, as well as having private doctor appointments, Westminster coroner’s court heard.

His mother, Ayelet Uriely, said in a statement that she was “devastated beyond words” about the loss of her son, whom she described as “highly gifted”.

While dealing with Uriely’s statement, the coroner, Dr Shirley Radcliffe, said: “There were 11 opportunities within seven months to appropriately test, diagnose and treat him.”

The inquest heard Uriely “felt strongly” that her son was denied basic care, and that as early as February that year she asked a doctor about the chances of Michael dying, but was told her son was “not in this category”.

Uriely also said she made requests for Michael to be referred to an asthma clinic as well as Great Ormond Street hospital, but that these requests did not materialise before his death.

She said she was told on one occasion that Michael’s condition “didn’t require it”.

Michael was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital on 18 August. Uriely said she thought he was having the worst asthma attack she had ever seen him having, but he was discharged and she was told her son would grow out of asthma.

Michael was brought back to the hospital in the early hours of 19 August, after having violent bouts of vomiting as well as a bloated chest. But the inquest heard he was told that he was “hysterical” and not having an asthma attack.

Uriely said she told hospital staff she was worried her son would die and Michael himself said he was “afraid to die”, which was out of character. But she was told she was on a “wild goose chase”. When there was no improvement in Michael’s condition on 21 August, she made an appointment with Dr Aisha Laskor, believing that her son had been prematurely and inappropriately discharged from hospital.

The inquest heard that Laskor expressed shock that the hospital had failed to treat Michael – but the two women disagreed about what was said during the appointment. “Your recollection is completely different,” the coroner said.

Laskor said she had been concerned enough to consider calling for an ambulance, but decided not to send him to hospital. She said her “gut instinct” was to send him back to hospital, but she said Uriely told her he was better since he was discharged.

The doctor said she told the Urielys to stay in the waiting room for 20 to 30 minutes after the appointment so that if they needed to see her again they could do so.

Representing the Uriely family, Adam Korn put it to Laskor: “It’s not true, is it, that Mrs Uriely said Michael had got better?” He suggested she was saying that to “justify” her decision to send him home.

Later in her evidence, a tearful Laskor said she was still questioning her decision that evening. Asked if Uriely appeared to be “desperate”, the doctor said: “I would have to say that no, she did not appear desperate.”

Michael, who played for Barnet Knights Chess Club, was diagnosed with asthma when he was two and a half. He began learning how to play chess six months later and went on to compete at local, regional and then national levels, winning the title of National Chess Champion for his age group at eight and nine years of age.

He collapsed in the early hours of 25 August and never regained consciousness. He had been competing in the Mind Sports Olympiad, an annual international competition and festival for games of mental skill and mind sports, including chess.

The inquest continues.

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