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By Manisha Mistry

 

AN autistic teenager, known for suffering in silence, became severely ill during the days leading up to her death, an inquest heard last week.

 

The parents of Sophie Harmsworth were forced to call their doctor for a home visit after the 14-year-old suddenly started vomiting on February 8 this year.

 

Dr Mark Bevis, from the Highfield Surgery in St Albans, was allocated to visit Sophie at her New House Park home that afternoon.

 

At Hatfield Coroners Court on Friday, July 29, Dr Bevis was questioned by the family’s barrister Oliver Williamson about his home visit, and a subsequent one on February 10.

 

The court heard how Sophie was bringing up green vomit and was refusing to eat. In the parents’ statement, read out by assistant deputy coroner Frances Cranfield, they described her as looking poorly, with sunken eyes.

 

Dr Bevis told the court that he was aware of Sophie’s autism as he had seen her before, but not for some time.

 

When examining Sophie, knowing she did not like to be touched, he saw no signs of stomach pain or reflexes in the stomach muscles which would indicate she had appendicitis.

 

Speaking about the diagnosis he made after an examination he said: “I couldn’t find any evidence of appendicitis at this stage, I thought it was like she was suffering from acute gastroenteritis and said Spohie’s condition would improve in the next two to three days.”

 

He told the family they could call back if they had any further concerns and Dr Bevis was scheduled for a second home visit on February 11, following a call to the surgery by Sophie’s parents.

 

Mr Williamson questioned Dr Bevis about his diagnosis compared to the post mortem results which revealed Sophie died of acute peritonitis and acute gangrenous appendicitis.

 

He asked: “Did you not feel that vomiting and a temperature warranted a hospital visit?” To which Dr Bevis answered: “Both are symptoms of gastroenteritis.”

 

Dr Bevis added: “I made my decision on the information I was given and the examination. I felt that putting them together this was the most likely diagnosis.

 

“It would be unusual even for someone like Sophie who hides pain to not feel discomfort from appendicitis.”

 

Mr Williamson cross-examined Dr Bevis for more than four hours, asking why he did not record certain results of the examinations during the home visits, and why he felt gastroenteritis was the most likely diagnosis.

 

On the morning of February 12 Sophie was taken by ambulance to Watford General Hospital after her condition deteriorated.

 

On the journey her limbs started to become cold and her finger tips and lips were going blue. Soon after arriving Sophie was pronounced dead.

 

The inquest into Sophie Harmsworth’s death was adjourned and will be resumed in September for other witnesses to give evidence, following which the coroner will record a cause of death.

 

Source:

http://www.stalbansreview.co.uk/news/9171133.Inquest_begins_into_autistic_teen_s_death/



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