Doctors accused of killing boy with Addison’s Disease by failing to see him when he was ‘dying’

By South Wales

TWO women doctors killed a 12-year-old boy by failing to treat him for a rare medical condition, a court heard today.

Dr Joanne Rudling, 45, and Dr Lindsey Thomas, 42, are accused of manslaughter by negligence after schoolboy Ryan Morse died at his home.

A court heard Ryan had a series of appointments at the GPs’ village surgery after he was feeling ill – and his skin became so discoloured that his friends nicknamed him “Teabag.”

But a jury was told the two doctors showed “gross negligence” for failing to properly respond to his symptoms from rare but treatable Addison’s disease.

Prosecutor John Price QC said one GP carried out a telephone consultation with his mother just 24 hours before he died.

Mr Price said: “The doctors should have visited Ryan at his home to personally examine him.

“Had that happened it would have confirmed the severity of the situation. They would have seen a very sick child in need of immediate attention.

“Ryan was in fact dying.

Above: Dr Lindsey Thomas

“They could have called an ambulance. If they had done as they should, his life would have been saved.”

The court heard Addison’s sufferers had symptoms including progressive anaemia, low blood pressure, weakness and discolouration of the skin.

Ryan was described as being “fit and healthy” until he started feeling ill in the three months before his death.

But his condition was not properly diagnosed in the several visits he made to the GPs’ surgery.

His mother was concerned that his skin was “yellowing” and feared he may have glandular fever.

Mr Price said: “Ryan’s skin became so discoloured that his school friends had nicknamed him “Teabag”

“The cause of his death was what is called an Addison’s disease crisis.

“Addison’s disease is a rare but treatable disease. There are 10 to 15 cases for every 100,000 people.”

A welfare officer at his school who was asked to look into his regular absences in the months leading up to his death noted he looked “thin, grey and gaunt” when called in for a meeting with his mum.

Above: Dr Joanne Rudling

A teacher noted: “I noticed that his skin was dark. He looked Indian or Pakistani in race.

“There wasn’t much of him.”

Three days before his death mum Carol, 54, was forced to pick him up from school early as he was “shaking” after vomiting twice and complained of feeling “so ill.”

At home his temperature changed from “very cold” to “burning”, and his mother was so concerned she slept with him in his bed until the following morning.

The next day Ryan was “delirious ” and “talking rubbish” – and the court heard his worried mother rang Abernant surgery.

She was put in touch with Dr Thomas who, after hearing his symptoms, told the mother to “fetch him up” to see her.

But the mother explained Ryan wasn’t “able to carry his own weight” and she couldn’t carry him.

Dr Thomas later told an investigator from Aneurin Bevan Health Board after the boy’s death: “At no point did the mother ever ask me to visit him. But she said if he needed to be seen then she wouldn’t be able to bring him in because he felt too ill.”

Mr Price told the court: “As though this was a decision for the mother and not for her.”

Ryan’s mother – who has four other children – made another phone call later that day and spoke to Dr Rudling.

The court heard she “also ignored” signs that the schoolboy was dying.

‘False entries’

Ryan died at his family home in Brynithel, Abertillery, on December 8 in 2012. It was a week before he would have celebrated his 13th birthday.

Mr Price said the neglect wasn’t that the doctors didn’t properly diagnose Ryan but that they did not recognise he was “a very sick child indeed.”

Mr Price said: “It is the conduct of each of the doctors in response to the mother’s telephone call on that Friday which lies at the heart of the accusation.

“Each of them are criminally at fault for the death of Ryan Morse.

“What the doctors should have done but failed to do was respond to the reports that the mother made to them about the condition of her child.”

The court heard claims Rudling later made false entries into Ryan’s medical records two days after the boy’s death. She allegedly made the notes look like they’d been entered on the day his mum rang in for a consultation.

She is also accused of incorrectly noting his genitals had “changed colour” when in fact his mother Carol, 54, had specifically said they were “black” in colour.

Thomas, of Tredegar, Gwent, denies one count of manslaughter.

Rudling, of Pontprennau, Cardiff, also denies manslaughter and trying to pervert the course of public justice.

The trial at Cardiff Crown Court is expected to last four weeks.

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