A Kent, England, woman died before doctors could determine what had been causing her excruciating pain. They had reportedly told the woman that the pain was all in her head.
Michelle Ashby, 43, died in January 2015; there was recently an inquest into her death, which concluded on April 28.
According to Ashby's family, she visited the hospital a total of 50 times leading up to her death after she began experiencing chronic pain. She was reportedly told by doctors on several occasions that the pain was in her head, and she was even once threatened to be kicked out of the hospital if she continued to scream in agony.
"We had around 50 admissions to Medway hospital," David Ashby, Michelle's husband, told the inquest, according to the Daily Mail. “We were in and out for the last two years of her life.
"We had an ambulance outside our house every week - the paramedics used to come in for a cup of tea. She was in constant pain and she never got better it just got continually worse."
David said that nobody expected his wife to die, as they were told her condition was not life-threatening.
"I was told a lot of the pain was in her head and that she was imagining it," he said.
Michelle was reportedly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1992. Crohn’s is a disease that affects millions of people worldwide, though there is no known cure. Serious complications such as bowel perforation can occur. In Michelle’s case, the cause of death was initially ruled pneumonia due to Crohn’s disease. However, an autopsy ultimately revealed that she died from multiple organ failure due to a perforation to her bowel.
“I find there is no evidence that had there been either a multi disciplinary meeting to discuss her case, or if Mrs Ashby had had surgery that the outcome probably would have been different - possibly but not probably,” assistant coroner Kate Thomas said at the inquest.
“Surgery itself in relation to Michelle would be major and complex and there would have been complications which would have detracted from her quality of life and surgery was the last resort. It was a balancing act. There was always a risk of perforation and the disease becoming worse.”
Philip Hamilton, Michelle's brother, said he believes doctors should have been able to determine the cause of the pain prior to her death.
“By the time she went to Darent Valley it was too late. Her body had given up. Her organs were failing and there was nothing they could do,” he told Kent Online in 2015.
“Her liver was so enlarged, a doctor at Darent asked if Michelle was a heavy drinker – she didn’t even drink. That’s when alarm bells starting ringing for me.”
“My sister didn’t have a terminal illness,” Hamilton added. "She should still be alive.
“The post-mortem found she had a perforated bowel. She had countless MRI scans, x-rays and blood tests, why was it not picked up before her death? She was showing signs of liver disease last year and her discharge notes from October say that she was at risk but this wasn’t followed up.”
In 2015, Michelle’s family said they planned to submit a complaint to the Medway NHS Foundation Trust, but it's unclear how the results of the inquest would affect the complaint.
"We've noted the Coroner's conclusion that Michelle Ashby died of natural causes," a Medway NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said following the inquest, the Daily Mail notes.
"We would like to pass on our thoughts to the family of Mrs. Ashby at what is clearly a difficult time."