In December 1989, Robbie Powell aged 10, of Ystradgynlais in Wales is hospitalised for four days. He loses 25% of his body weight and is critically dehydrated. The hospital suspects Addison’s disease, an adrenal condition that’s highly treatable, but will result in death without treatment. Doctors there order an ACTH test for the condition, but this isn’t followed through. The test recommendation isn’t communicated to the Powells, but is communicated to his GPs. Instead the Powells are told by the hospital that Robbie suffers from gastroenteritis caused by a throat infection.
Four months later, in April 1990, Robbie again suffers from vomiting, weight loss and acute stomach pains. He is seen seven times by five doctors over 15 days. None of them perform the basics: check symptoms, do a blood test or refer to the hospital. Only one doctor checks the medical records, containing the crucial warning from the hospital. He dies from critical dehydration as a result of Addison’s disease. His death could have been avoided, but due to a combination of mismanagement, dishonesty and deliberate cover-up, none of the doctors are prosecuted.
What follows is a 22 year long battle with every judicial, police and governing body in the UK. At every point in this long and painful journey for justice, every door is shut in the Powell family’s faces. Not only this, several of these governing bodies fail publicly and spectacularly in their duties to investigate the case – see the time line for evidence.
After taking their case to the High Court, Court of Appeal, and the House of Lords; the European Court of Human Rights in May 2000 erroneously advised the Powells that their case is inadmissible. Their statement to the Powells reads: ”As the law stands now, doctors have no duty to give parents of a child, who died as a result of their negligence, a truthful account of the circumstances of the death. Nor even to refrain from deliberately falsifying record.”
Robbie’s Law and the Duty of Candour is born from a seriously dire need for openness and honesty in healthcare. Robbie’s Law means that healthcare staff must tell patients and their next of kin the truth, when a patient safety incident occurs.
By signing this petition, you’re saying you believe that the healthcare system in the UK needs to get better. Robbie’s Law is the key that will unlock systemic change.