GT man died of natural causes

Wilburne McLaughlin had sickle cell anaemia from birth

An inquest earlier this month into the death of Wilburne McLaughlin revealed conditions associated with sickle cell anaemia, which he was known to have since birth. 

Mr. McLaughlin was 49 when he died at his residence in the early hours of 
31 May, 2011. 

A jury empanelled by Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik returned a verdict of death by natural causes after hearing the evidence of government pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti.  

He explained that Mr. McLaughlin’s heart and liver were “massively enlarged”, both weighing approximately twice their expected weight. In contrast, his spleen was atrophied and weighed 4.5 grams, when the expected weight would be 150 grams. 

Mr. Jyoti said these conditions were consistently seen in sickle cell disease. 

He also noted the reports of family members, who said Mr. McLaughlin received treatment at the hospital “on and off” for complications of the disease. He was on medication for hypertension. 

Mr. McLaughlin’s wife said she picked him up from Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital, where he worked, around 11pm on 30 May. She went to bed around 12.30 to 1am. Around 2am she awoke and her husband was in bed and he was breathing. At 5.40am, when she awoke, he did not appear to be breathing. He was unresponsive and she called for help. 

Emergency Services personnel attended but were unable to revive him. 

A police officer who went to the scene reported no signs of violence and no reason to believe that anything untoward had occurred. 

The jury adopted the pathologist’s finding of hypertensive heart disease in a case of sickle cell disease. 

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder of the red blood cells.  

When oxygen comes out of the cells, they become stiff and take the abnormal shape of a sickle instead of remaining round and flexible.  

The sickle cells break down faster than the body can make new red blood cells. A normal red blood cell lives approximately 120 days but a sickle cell may only live 11 or 12 days. 

There are facilities in Cayman to diagnose sickle cell disease and to manage it. 

Having the sickle cell trait means that the person stays healthy under normal circumstances, and the main significance is that it can be passed on to one’s children. 


Source: Public Health Department and Genetics Coordinator Joy Merren. For more information contact Mrs. Merren at 244-2630. 

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