Husband Switches Off Wife’s Life Support Machine Only To Find Her Still...

Husband Switches Off Wife’s Life Support Machine Only To Find Her Still Alive 3 Days Later

By Daily Magic on May 23, 2014
File phot of hospital

A grieving husband who switched off his wife’s life support machine found out three days later she was still alive when he called the hospital to make funeral arrangements.

Malcolm Greenhill, 62, had said his goodbyes to wife of 41 years Marilyn and turned off the machines helping her to breath.

He was told she would be dead within minutes.

Mr Greenhill left hospital and began the difficult task of telling his family.

But when his son Craig, 41, rang Sandwell Hospital, in West Bromwich, West Mids, three days later to make funeral arrangements – he was given the heart-breaking news Marilyn was still alive.

Giving evidence at an inquest, Craig said the blunder only emerged after staff couldn’t find Marilyn’s body in the mortuary.

He said: “Dad turned her machine off on Saturday Bank Holiday and we were told to call back on Tuesday but when we spoke to the mortuary at the hospital they told us they couldn’t find her.

“It turned out she was still on the ward.”

The family rushed back to the hospital but Mrs Greenhill died 24 hours later.

Hospital bosses have now launched an investigation into what happened.

Mr Greenhill told the hearing how he had to watch his wife “die twice”.

Giving evidence at Smethwick Coroners Court he said he would never have left his wife’s side for her remaining four days if he had known she was still alive.

He added: “I was told it was only the machine keeping her breathing and there was no point prolonging the inevitable.

“They told us there was nothing more they could do and she would only live for a couple of minutes once I turned the machine off so I said my goodbyes.

“It is like grieving for her dying twice, I said goodbye twice.

“If I knew she would stay alive for four days I would never have left her side.”

Grandmother Marilyn, 65, had been hospitalised after falling down the stairs of her home in West Bromwich and suffering a bleed to the brain.

She was rushed to Sandwell Hospital at 12.30pm on May 3 after her husband found her lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs.

Doctors told her desperate family that nothing could be done to save her life.

That left Mr Greenhill with the heartbreaking decision to turn off the life support keeping his wife alive at 6pm the same day.

But the family rushed back to the hospital on May 7 after discovering she was still alive.

Daughter Joanne Highfield, 39, told the hearing: “We didn’t know that for three days she had laid there alone, she was still breathing.

“Nobody called us, no one told us our mum was still alive.”

Adjourning the inquest for three months, Assistant Black Country Coroner Mr Angus Smillie said: “It is an unexpected turn of events, you went home thinking she had passed away only to find out days later that she was in fact still alive.

“It would be inappropriate of me to conclude the inquest today because of the unusual circumstances.

“I would like to adjourn for three months for more medical information and for an investigation into exactly what happened in those intervening days.

“It is a fairly extraordinary turn of events.”

A spokesman for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Sandwell General Hospital, said the death was being thoroughly investigated.

Sam Holdsworth, communications support officer, added: “Our condolences go out to Mrs Greenhill’s family at this difficult time.

“Deaths in our trust are thoroughly investigated.

“Should the coroner request that we examine any specific concerns arising from the ongoing inquest then we are committed to providing information rapidly and fully.”

Leader of Sandwell Council Darren Cooper has now called for a full investigation.

He said: “My thoughts go to the family. It’s a shocking set of circumstances.

“There appears to have been a massive breakdown in communication between the the hospital team and the family.

“I hope that that there is a full investigation into what has happened because something has gone seriously wrong and it needs looking into.”

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