Pathologist details state of dead elderly woman found in own waste
The condition of an emaciated 76-year-old woman found dead in her own waste was the result of "extremely poor hygiene and nursing standards", a pathologist says.
Forensic pathologist Fintan Garavan has detailed the state of Ena Lai Dung, who was found dead in her Manurewa, south Auckland home on January 16 last year.
Her daughter Cindy Taylor has been charged with manslaughter and is accused of failing to care for her mother properly.
The Crown says the case is about the "gross neglect" of an elderly woman, who died a "miserable death".
Married couple Brian and Luana Taylor, who were also living with Cindy Taylor and her mother, are also charged with failing to protect a vulnerable adult. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Speaking from Florida in the US on Wednesday, forensic pathologist Fintan Garavan said Dung's skin had been stained from urine and faeces.
A combination of malnutrition, waste contact and her lack of movement had caused various pressure sores all over her body and her skin was so brittle that parts of it had torn or begun to slough off, Garavan said.
There was evidence of dead skin which gave off a gangrene smell, and her skin been chemically burned from lying in urine, Garavan said.
He noted ulcers on her foot and knee which formed as a result of contact with waste, as well as her skin being in constant contact with a surface for a long period of time.
Tests showed she was in the early stages of broncho-pneumonia - inflammation of the lungs.
Asked about the pain the sores would have caused Dung, Garavan said it was hard to say.
"But I think common sense needs to prevail. It's not rocket science. This is not a good thing to happen to your body," he said.
"Clearly [the sores] are going to have a detrimental effect."
Her condition was the result of "extremely poor hygiene and extremely poor nursing standards", he said.
He also observed that Dung had multiple healing fractures to her ribs and sternum - the most he had seen on one person in his line of work, he said.
It was not possible to date when the injuries might have happened, but it could have been weeks before she was found dead, he said.
The broken bones had begun to heal themselves but would never have healed normally because of Dung's malnutrition, he said.
He had not been given any information about the body when he began his examination but became so concerned about Dung's state that he contacted police.
"It was at that point I ... suggested they send some officers to attend the post-mortem," he said.
"To have so many broken ribs it's very painful and to have so many... it's going to interfere with your ability to breathe.
"You're going to be in a lot of pain. I'm struggling how she had so many broken ribs and didn't seem to get any attention for it."
The fractures could have been caused by several falls or one very heavy fall - or they could have been inflicted on Dung, he said.