'Doctors missed 11 chances' to treat chess champion, nine, before chronic asthma death

Michael Uriely was a national chess champion. Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire

Doctors missed 11 opportunities to treat a nine-year-old chess champion in the months before he died of chronic asthma, an inquest has heard, instead telling him he was "hysterical".

Michael Uriely was twice discharged from the Royal Free Hospital in London in the days before his death after he suffered violent coughing and vomiting fits which left him struggling to breathe.

Five days after being discharged from hospital for the second time, on August 25, 2015, the national chess champion from north London collapsed in the early hours of the morning and died.

In the months leading up to his death, Michael was seen by NHS GPs, as well as having private doctor appointments.

Michael's mother, Ayelet Uriely, said in a statement that she was "devastated beyond words" about the loss of her son, who she described as "highly gifted".

While dealing with Mrs Uriely's statement to the inquest at Westminster Coroner's Court, Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said: "There was 11 opportunities within seven months to appropriately test, diagnose and treat him."

The inquest heard Ms Uriely "felt strongly" that her son was denied basic care.

As early as February 2015, Ms Uriely said she asked Dr Michael Greenberg about the chances of her son dying as she felt his condition was deteriorating.

She said he responded to her by saying: "What are you talking about?" and that Michael was "not in this category".

Michael was told he was being 'hysterical', the inquest heard. Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire

In later evidence, Dr Greenberg, from Wellington Outpatients Centre in Golders Green, said he could not recall the conversation.

Ms Uriely told the inquest she made requests for Michael to be referred to an asthma clinic as well as Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), but these requests did not materialise before his death.

She said she was told on one occasion that Michael's condition "didn't require it".

Dr Greenberg said he also did not recall Ms Uriely asking for her son to be transferred to GOSH, saying he would have "happily made those referrals".

On August 18, Ms Uriely said she thought Michael was having the worst asthma attack she had ever seen him having and took him to the Royal Free Hospital, but said she was told: "You don't really need to be here. You should go home."

She told the inquest: "I said: 'I can't go without you doing some sort of test'", but was told that she was wasting doctors' time and her son would grow out of his asthma.

At 8pm Michael was sent home.

The inquest heard from paediatrician Dr Neil Thompson, who had seen Michael at the Royal Free Hospital on August 18.

He denied using the word "hysterical" to describe the child, and when asked if he could recall Ms Uriely "begging" not to be left to deal with Michael's cough alone, he said he could not.

The court heard Dr Thompson thought Michael's cough was likely to be "viral", and he said: "He had no wheeze. He had good air entry."

He did add that he knew Michael was having "an exacerbation" in his asthma.

Michael Uriely was a pupil at Westminster Under School. Credit: SWNS

Michael was taken back to hospital the next day, and by this stage was having violent bouts of vomiting as well as a bloated chest.

The inquest heard he was told that he was "hysterical" and not having an asthma attack.

Ms Uriely was told he was being discharged that afternoon but she said she told staff: "I am scared my son will die tonight".

She also said Michael himself said he was "afraid to die".

She told the inquest: "I said: 'I'd never let anything bad happen to you.'"

She continued that she spoke to staff about the "worst case scenario" but was told she was on a "wild goose chase".

After Michael's condition failed to improve, Ms Uriely made an appointment with a GP, Dr Aisha Laskor, believing that her son had been prematurely and inappropriately discharged from hospital.

The inquest heard that Dr Laskor expressed shock that the hospital had failed to treat Michael, and said her "gut reaction" was to send him to hospital, but Ms Uriely said he was better since he was discharged - something Ms Uriely says is untrue - and so the doctor did not send him to hospital.

An asthma expert who gave evidence at the inquest said Michael's condition had been "poorly controlled" and said he "should have seen a respiratory specialist".

Dr Mark Levy said that the respiratory rate of 36, which Michael had on August 21, was considered to be "life threatening".

The inquest continues.