Patient denied dignified death

Brian Williams

The family of a brain tumour patient from Tameside believe he was denied the dignified death he wanted, because medics didn’t turn off an implant designed to keep his heart beating.

Brian Williams, from Hattersley, asked to drift off gently during his final hours at Tameside Hospital. But he'd had a personal defibrillator implanted in his chest for heart problems, years earlier, and it kept shocking him when he was close to death.

His son-in-law, Steven Walker, says he felt the huge shock from the device as he comforted Brian. Other relatives say they saw the 77-year-old “lift off the bed” as electricity surged through him. They believe Brian suffered unnecessarily as a result. Steven says he asked doctors and nurses to turn off the implant, but no-one appeared to understand how it worked.

Eventually, a nurse apologised for any distress, and an expert was found to turn off the defibrillator. Brian then died in peace.

Shutting down such implants is a common practice, to allow the terminally ill to pass away peacefully. Consultant cardiologist Dr. Adam Fitzpatrick, from Wilmslow, explains there are guidelines to ensure this happens. He’s implanted many such devices, and says patients in palliative care must given the dignity they deserve.

Tameside Hospital have met Brian’s relatives and promise to investigate their concerns. Executives describe the circumstances as “unusual and sensitive”. They say it would be “inappropriate to comment further”.