Board challenged after death

16:00, Dec 14 2012

The family of a Picton woman who died during surgery say they have lost faith in the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and never want the surgeon to operate again.

Rachel Riddell, 31, died of significant blood loss in January 2011 after having her gall bladder removed by Michael Parry at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.

The Zimbabwean-born surgeon, who is linked to another death and two other botched operations, has not operated on patients since May.

Riddell's older sister, Lynn Weir, said her family were still waiting to find out what went wrong in the operating theatre.

Riddell, who was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, had signed a directive against blood transfusions.

She thought she was going in for laparoscopic, or keyhole, surgery, but medical notes show Parry converted to open surgery halfway through the operation.


Riddell was dropped at the hospital about 7.30am by her mother, who had planned to return to sit with her until she was discharged later that day.

"I think it was around 2.30pm that they rung and said, ‘Look your daughter's in trouble, she's in major trouble, she's dying basically'," Weir said.

Riddell was taken back into theatre about 3pm, but died that evening.

"It's been very traumatic for my parents, you know, not being able to lay it to rest because they still don't know what happened.

"For me I want it over and done with, and I want to know what went wrong.

"But I also want to ensure that our DHB is employing people with good health records."

Weir said she did not have faith in the district health board, which employed Parry in April 2010.

"They've spent so long coming out to the public going . . . ‘We have confidence in this surgeon'. Well, how do you have confidence in this surgeon and let him continue?"

Parry was stood down on full pay after the death of Jim Nicholls, 80, who suffered massive blood loss during an operation on May 24.

At the same time, Southern Cross suspended his contract as an affiliated provider, and he stopped operating at Churchill Trust Private Hospital in Blenheim.

A coroner's inquiry into the two deaths was put on hold when police launched their own investigation into one of the deaths, to determine whether there was any "liability or culpability".

Police are refusing to confirm which death - Nicholls' or Riddell's - is being investigated.

As well as the police inquiry, the Medical Council is investigating other complaints against Parry that were referred to it by the health and disability commissioner.

Two women complained after they suffered serious complications during Parry operations. Both went in to have their gall bladders removed and had to be sent to Christchurch Hospital for follow-up care.

"Me talking and getting this case out in the open, she would support me 100 per cent," Weir said.

The family laid a complaint with the health and disability commissioner in May last year.

Nelson Marlborough chief medical officer Heather McPherson maintained the quality of service at Wairau Hospital was of a "good standard" and patient safety was of the highest priority.


December 2010: Picton mother Angie Webber, 26, went in to have her gall bladder removed by Parry. Her bile duct was damaged and she was sent to Christchurch Hospital, where a specialist performed open surgery to repair the damage. January 2011: Rachel Riddell, 31, of Picton, died from massive blood loss following surgery to have her gall bladder removed. February 2011: A 36-year-old Upper Hutt woman suffered complications during surgery to remove her gall bladder. She, too, needed further treatment in Christchurch. May 2012: Jim Nicholls, 81, died after blood loss during surgery to remove a hernia and gall bladder.

Fairfax Media