5-year-old girl dies after doctors misdiagnose appendicitis as gastric infection

The death of a 5-year-old girl in England has prompted an inquest into the circumstances surrounding her diagnosis, as a doctor initially believed her appendicitis was a bout of viral gastroenteritis and allowed her parents to bring her home from the hospital.

Elspeth Moore died several days after she was first brought to the Southampton Children’s Hospital in mid-2017, after suffering from diarrhea and telling medical workers her stomach “felt on fire.” She was also running a fever of over 100 degrees and exhibited an increased heart rate, per The Sun.

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A doctor continued observing Moore, including her ability to keep fluids down, when her parents asked if they could bring her home and put her to bed. The doctor allowed Moore to leave, and reportedly advised her parents to continue to give Moore water, to see if she could keep it down.

“The message we were given was that if we were happy to go, we could. Given that when we arrived we were freaking out, for want of a better word, to be told she had a virus, I felt quite relieved and happy to go, based on that,” Moore’s father told the court, according to the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times.

Moore initially showed progress over the next few days, according to her parents, but began suffering from diarrhea, fever and vomiting on July 5.

Moore’s father said he periodically checked on her after putting the girl to bed, and later decided to sleep in her room.

“I said ‘I’m going to stay in here with you’, and lay down on the floor next to her. I said ‘love you’ and she said ‘love you daddy,’” the inquest heard, The Sun reports.

Moore’s father said he heard her make a choking noise shortly afterward and found her unresponsive. Her parents rushed her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

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A coroner who appeared at the inquest defended the doctor’s initial diagnosis, but felt that Moore’s parents should have been given better instructions on how to proceed with her care.

Coroner Graham Short said it was not “unreasonable” to think Moore was suffering from a gastric infection, as it was “not a classic example of someone with pain in their abdomen. However, he stated that it was his opinion that doctors provided “insufficient advice … on how to care for her at home and, more importantly, what to look out for to bring her back to hospital,” as reported in the Advertiser and Times.

A clinical director with the University Hospital Southampton added that the facility has instituted multiple new procedures in the wake of Moore’s case, including changes to the patient checklist and new requirements for providing at-home care advice.

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Elspeth Moore’s parents have set up a JustGiving crowdfunding campaign to create a garden in her memory.