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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Out of Their Mouths Are They Convicted?

Retired master baker dies: Cornwall coroner says care home wasn't negligent.

(Negligent | adjective | failing to take proper care)

Concerns were raised 

over rotting flesh,
an inquest heard last week

when an ambulance crew,
arriving at the scene,
became concerned 

for their patient's well being.

The patient, on being
discharged from hospital,
had been relocated to 
a Camborne nursing home.

Mr Reginald Stone was ninety-six
and he suffered from dementia;
he also had diabetes
and serious heart disease.
He had fallen 
eight months earlier
and fractured his calf.

When the ambulance came
he was in a lot of pain
and the smell from his room
was unbearable.

He had worn his cast
for fourteen weeks.
It was leaking rotting
flesh and goo.

There were pressure sores

around his knee
but a PC found no evidence

of wrongdoing.

Still, the pathologist
went on record
expressing his surprise:

There was this smell,
he told the inquest
and nobody did anything about it.

If you smell something

you have to try

to figure [it] out.

Mr Stone's GP regretted the fact
that the smell wasn't
brought to his attention.

There was, however, no negligence,
he said. The nursing home
was treating him well.

© Abigail Wyatt, 2013

Vulnerable 96year old man found with rotting flesh in Camborne

Abigail Wyatt lives at Druids Lodge in the shadow of Carn Brea in Redruth.where she writes, mainly poetry and short fiction, and tries not to get too depressed. She is a founding member of the Red River Poetry Collective and enjoys performing her work locally. She has a fine collection of axes all of which she is much disposed to grind. Her blog is here


  1. It is good that you have aired your concerns re this newspaper article Abigail and it is true that we, as a society, are negligent in meeting the needs of (or even caring about) our vulnerable older citizens.

    If you examine the timelines of this article it reads that Reginald’s death did not closely follow that of the reporting of a safeguarding alert by ambulance staff and that he was returned to the home – presumably with NOK consent – and died there some five months later. It is then perhaps so that his family were happy with his care there – despite this obvious case of negligence – or was it negligence?

    It is true that pressure sores can erupt in a very short period of time and it is unclear whether same were ‘hidden’ beneath his plaster cast. Nevertheless, even if this were so, for staff to ignore the ‘unbearable’ smell and obvious agony is indeed neglect. However the article does not make clear whether recognition of this and action because of it, was the reason for the ambulance service to be present to transport Mr Stone to hospital.

    I do not think a GP and a safeguarding officer would ‘cover-up’ obvious and deliberate neglect – so perhaps obvious and deliberate neglect were not an issue here? And the Coroners verdict would appear to recognise this?

    It is a sad truth that newspapers and indeed the media in general ‘sensationalise’ stories, recognising that this appears to feed the appetite of the reader – and perhaps this is the case here as concerns of NOK in this reporting are noticeable by their absence.

    That said – we as a society turn our backs on the needs of the elderly and their plight is of little interest to us – this being evident in the NHS, care homes, abandonment by families etc. However we are not all tarred with the same brush and several (hopefully many) of us cares much, very much…

    Thanks for this opportunity for discussion Abigail. Tis a pity that content – instead of architecture, turns of phrase and so on – of poetry published here are not discussed – for if this is an arena for airing our views – what more rewarding knowing that our poetry is more than words…

    Anna :o]

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment so fully. Your point about what is discussed is a fair one but not one which is within the poet of the editors to control. Our subscribers decide on the nature of the comments they wish to make.:-)

    As to the stance taken in my piece, well, it was was with some thought and care that I deliberately chose to put the title in the interrogative. It is true that there are some aspects of this story, at least as it is reported here, that do not emerge clearly enough for us to make a decisive judgement; though, having said that, having discussed it with my partner, a nurse of a lifetime's standing, it does appear that more could have been done to improve this elderly gentleman's health and comfort. If so, then it is possible that staffing issues lie at the root of the matter and that in itself is an issue which should be highlighted and discussed.

    I am afraid I do not share your confidence that 'cover ups' are unlikely; though I do stress that I am not accusing anyone in his particular case, only pointing, as it were, at an expanse of very muddy water. The truth is that, whether we like it or not cover-ups do happen, in this field as in any other; and, as the health service comes more and more under the control of private financial interests, I am afraid they are likely to occur more often.

    Finally, I would like to say say this: I know this nursing home. Some three years ago my father, aged 84, chair-bound and in need of considerable attention, was admitted there for a period of two to three weeks while my mother underwent a mastectomy and I cared for her after her discharge from hospital. I took my father to the nursing home and, privately, I wept when I had to leave him there. I visited him every day and, although not a man to show his feelings easily, he cried on every occasion. He told me things about his experiences there that made me determined to bring him home.

    After six days, I took him back to my own home where, since he could not manage the stairs, I nursed him in a double bed in my lounge. When my mother came out of hospital, I cared for both of them in that way for many weeks until she was strong enough to cope, with assistance, at home. Now, sadly, my father has passed away but I still care for my mother so I am not without experience of the area which, in this case, I have chosen to write. Having said that, I don't think there is anything in my piece that suggest that all care homes or care professionals are in any way negligent so I for one am certainly not seeking to 'tar everyone with the same brush'.

    Thank you again for your interesting contribution. Please feel free to comment on matters of diction, structure and style if you wish to do so. I am sure that most of our contributors would welcome such a discussion.

  3. Thank you Abigail for this thought provoking, poignant write.
    A good read!



    1. Cheers, Amy. The plight of so many of our elderly is just one of the many problems our society is facing, I know, but it seems to me that you can tell a lot about people, whether as individuals or groups, from their treatment of the vulnerable. I do not like to dwell on the fate that may be awaiting me in the event that I live into my eighties.