Boston Coroners Court

Toilet habits led to woman’s death

A 91-year-old woman died after developing pressure ulcers from sitting on the toilet for too long, an inquest has heard.

Margaret Higgins passed away on August 28, 2018 at the home in Foxes Low Road, Holbeach, she’d shared with her son Vincent Higgins since suffering a fall in 2012.

Boston Coroner’s Court heard Mrs Higgins had several medical conditions that had led to her being extremely frail and she weighed just under four stones at the time of her death.

Health officials and Mr Higgins said that the first signs of ulcers were found around February to March 2018.

Despite treatment and increasing appointments of care staff visiting Mrs Higgins, the wounds became worse and became infected.

Mr Higgins told the inquest that he felt the ulcers were the result of a new type of a specialist mattress that Mrs Higgins had been provided the previous August by the Lincolnshire Community Health Care Service NHS Trust.

However the trust’s tissue viability nurse Michelle Porter told the hearing ulcers develop quickly, following over 20 minutes of stress on the body: “From what I’ve seen in the profession for the last ten years, I’ve not experienced anyone getting that level of pressure ulcers from a mattress. There’s other factors around it.”

The inquest heard that due to a medical condition Mrs Higgins spent up to 40 minutes at a time on the toilet and due to how thin she was, struggled to fit on the seat itself.

This, Mrs Porter said, was much more likely to be the cause of the ulcers Mrs Higgins experienced which centred on the buttocks.

Mr Higgins had eventually bought a padded toilet seat and urged his mother not to sit on the toilet for so long, the inquest heard.

The inquest heard he’d also followed health professionals’ guidance on caring for his mother including turning her at regular intervals.

Delivering a verdict of death by natural causes, coroner Paul Smith said: “Mrs Higgins had no history of pressure ulcers though by virtue of her age and general health she was at a high risk of developing such a condition.

“There was a high risk arising from her toilet habits particularly the length of time on the toilet.

“Mr Higgins has spoke of his unshakable belief that the change of mattress caused the ulcers.

“Most certainly Mrs Porter had never seen these kind of ulcers from the use of a particular mattress and it would not take seven months for pressure ulcers to become evident if that was the case.

“It’s clear to me Mr Higgins did everything he justifiably could for his mother.

“It’s obvious he was devoted to his mum, and from what I’m told, his father.

“It’s crystal clear she was very happy to be cared for by him.

“The death of a loved one is difficult to bear.

“Mrs Higgins received the highest level of care support from the authorities in her final weeks.”

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