The death of Jessica-Lee Dennis, 16, from severe asthma could have been prevented had her doctors not underestimated the seriousness of her illness , a coroner in Australia has found. The teenager collapsed and died of breathing difficulties just one hour after she visited Dr Andrew Jeyaprakash at a medical centre at Port Pirie in May 2004.
SA Coroner Elizabeth Sheppard said today that the doctor had ample opportunity to assess the seriousness of Jessica's illness, but failed to do so. "Dr Jeyaprakash underestimated the severity of Jessica-Lee's asthma ... (and) failed to take Jessica-Lee's asthma seriously," she said. "He failed to obtain and document a comprehensive history from his patient."
The coroner also said Jessica's lung capacity was not estimated. "The explanations given to Jessica-Lee and her mother, concerning diagnosis and treatment, were inadequate, and there was no clear plan devised to monitor the progress of Jessica-Lee's asthma. I find that his deficiencies may also have been exacerbated by his slightly compromised English skills," she added.
Dr Jeyaprakash had failed to apply proper principles in treating asthma, Ms Sheppard said. A specialist respiratory physician who was asked to review the case said Jessica could have been saved.
"Overall, I find that Dr Jeyaprakash's management of Jessica-Lee was of a relatively cursory nature, possibly reflective of the pressure of work and the large number of patients he was required to manage," Ms Sheppard said.