Dead man's mum wants penalty

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 05:00 27/09/2012
SPURRED INQUIRY: Charlotte Botha, whose son Clinton died in Christchurch Hospital after brain surgery.
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

SPURRED INQUIRY: Charlotte Botha, whose son Clinton died in Christchurch Hospital after brain surgery.

Clinton-John Botha
Clinton-John Botha

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The mother of a Christchurch soldier who died because of inadequate care after elective brain surgery says there should be consequences for those who failed her son.

Clinton-John Botha, 21, who was nominated for a bravery award while serving with the New Zealand Army in East Timor, died on March 7, 2009, in Christchurch Hospital after surgery to relieve severe headaches.

Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill found Botha died because of "sub-optimal" processes and practices in the neurosurgical unit.

Botha's mother, Charlotte Botha, said the findings confirmed what she had discovered from her inquiries into her son's death. She received a letter of apology from the hospital but felt it would have been more appropriate coming from the staff involved - a trainee neurosurgeon, a consultant neurosurgeon and three nurses.

Botha could not understand why there were no consequences for the staff who made the mistakes.

"My son didn't have to die if people did their job properly. There were at least three to five people that compromised his care," she said. "There was a nurse stationed next to his bed. A nurse was sitting next to my son while he was dying. There are no consequences. It's almost like his life was meaningless. That's my frustration.

"There should be something. I'm not saying they should lose their jobs; perhaps some retraining or a fine." Botha believed that if she had not made the complaint and investigated, nothing would have happened. "It's the only place in New Zealand that you can do something really bad and there's no consequences. Even if I pay my power bill late, there's a penalty."

She hoped the findings would help the family put the events surrounding his death behind them and remember him as he was, a "good, caring person".

"Even on the day of his funeral a girl came to me and put a letter in my and said, ‘I always wanted to give this to Clinton; I want you to have it'," she said. "She was going to commit suicide and he talked her out of it. In the letter she was thanking him for being there. That's the type of boy he was. I'll treasure that forever."

An inquest into Botha's death is continuing.

Last night, the Christchurch District Health Board said it accepted the commissioner's findings.

Chief medical officer Nigel Millar said the board carried out a review after the death, which led to improvements.

“While much of neurosurgery is by its nature high risk, Clinton Botha's death was unexpected, considering his condition of a Chiari syndrome, the routine nature of his surgery and early signs of a normal recovery,” he said.

"Key areas of improvement include more detailed pre-operative assessments which check for any respiratory or sleep disorders.

Millar said "The consent process for Chiari malformation also includes respiratory failure and death as potential risks."

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