No evidence of medical error in patient’s death

Open verdict in inquest of popular Cayman Islands resident

Lisa Turner

An inquest into the death of longtime Cayman Islands resident Lisa Turner found no evidence of any surgical error or medical mistake.

A coroner’s court jury recorded an “open verdict” at the conclusion of the three-day hearing Thursday, meaning they could not determine exactly how she died.

The 61 year old, originally from Canada but resident in Cayman for 25 years, died on Feb. 14 this year, four days after undergoing surgery to remove a cyst from her ovary.

In her summing up to the jury, Coroner Eileen Nervik said there was no evidence of any injury caused by the operation that could have led to the infection and “septic shock” she suffered in the days that followed and that ultimately led to her death.

“The operation probably precipitated the events that led to septic shock and death, but we do not have before us any direct link that it was the cause of her death,” she said.

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“Certainly there is no evidence the doctors intended her to die. Many doctors tried to save her life, everybody acted professionally, some may say heroically. All the doctors were attentive and appropriate.”

Dr. Suzanne Muise, the gynecologist who carried out the cystectomy surgery at Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital on Friday, Feb. 10., testified that the operation had gone as planned and Ms. Turner was in a stable condition and able to be discharged the same evening. Several members of the medical team involved in the surgery also gave statements that it had been successful and uneventful.

Ms. Turner developed a fever over the weekend, however, and was readmitted to the private hospital Sunday evening before being transferred to the Cayman Islands Hospital as her condition worsened.

Doctors concluded she was suffering from septic shock, a life-threatening reaction to infection. They were unable to operate because her blood platelet count was too low, impacting the blood’s clotting mechanisms, making surgery too dangerous.

There were no platelets available on island for transfusion and an air ambulance transfer to Florida was arranged, but she suffered a cardiac arrest before she could be flown off island and was readmitted to the Cayman Islands Hospital, where she died the next morning.

Several doctors from the Health Services Authority said in statements that their working theory at the time was that Ms. Turner may have suffered a perforated bowel during the earlier surgery, leading to the infection that caused the sepsis.

In her summary of the evidence, Ms. Nervik said there was no evidence in the autopsy report that this was the case.

A pathologist’s report determined the cause of death as “complications following a left ovarian cystectomy and saplingectomy” – an operation to remove a cyst and fallopian tube. But the nature of those complications remained unclear.

Ms. Nervik said the pathologist’s examination showed no holes in the bowel or any other organ and no evidence of fecal matter or pus having leaked from the intestines.

“We have no evidence of any injury to the bowel or other organs, there is no evidence of any of those things,” she said.

She added, “We don’t really have any definitive knowledge of how this sepsis occurred.”

The patient was otherwise fit and healthy and there was no sign of any underlying illness, the coroner added.

Ms. Turner worked at International Design Group and was a familiar face at World Gym on West Bay Road. Following her death in February, friends told the Compass she was a bright and vibrant woman who made an impression on everyone she met.

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