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Police probe death of teenager in NHS hospital

UK News | Published:

Oliver McGowan died in Southmead Hospital in Bristol in 2016 after being given the anti-psychotic Olanzapine against his and his parents’ wishes.

Oliver McGowan

Police are investigating the death of a teenager who was prescribed medication against his and his parents’ wishes.

Avon and Somerset Police confirmed they have launched a criminal inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oliver McGowan, 18, who was fit and healthy.

Oliver died at Southmead Hospital in Bristol in November 2016 after being given the anti-psychotic Olanzapine and contracting neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) – a rare side-effect of the drug.

In 2018, Dr Peter Harrowing, the assistant coroner for Avon, concluded that the Olanzapine had caused Oliver to suffer from NMS, which was a “a significant contributory factor” in his death.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police told the PA news agency: “Police are investigating the circumstances behind the death of Oliver McGowan in 2016.

“As part of the inquiry they will interview a number of individuals as they seek to establish the circumstances around Oliver’s death, before seeking advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.”

It is understood that no arrests have been made in relation to the case.

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Following the five-day inquest in April 2018, Dr Harrowing concluded that it was “appropriate” for Oliver to have been prescribed Olanzapine.

He reached a narrative conclusion and said the teenager’s death was caused by severe pneumonia and hypoxic brain injury, and “Olanzapine-induced” NMS.

Oliver, from Emerson’s Green, Bristol, contracted meningitis twice during childhood and suffered with epilepsy, learning difficulties and autism as a result.

Oliver McGowan in hospital (Family handout/PA)
Oliver McGowan in hospital (Family handout/PA)

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On October 22 2016, he was admitted to Southmead Hospital after suffering a seizure, and was intubated and sedated.

An initial CT scan did not show any changes to his brain.

Oliver was prescribed Olanzapine on October 25 to manage any potential psychosis when he was woken up, the inquest heard.

His parents told the hearing they had repeatedly insisted that he should not be given the drug.

After the Olanzapine was administered, Oliver’s temperature rose and he showed signs of NMS.

On October 28, the medication was stopped and a CT scan two days later showed Oliver had suffered a serious brain injury.

He died on November 11.

Oliver was fit and healthy before his death (Family handout/PA)
Oliver McGowan was fit and healthy before his death (Family handout/PA)

His parents, Paula and Tom McGowan, have been campaigning for better awareness among NHS staff of autism and learning difficulties.

Last November, the Government announced £1.4 million of funding to develop and test a mandatory training package for all health and social care workers.

In a statement, Mrs McGowan said: “His voice was wilfully ignored in life and up until now has be muted in death.

“We embrace the police doing a full and thorough investigation into Oliver’s death.

“Oliver made it clear to paramedics and doctors he was not to be administered anti-psychotic medication.

“We, as Oliver’s parents, knew him best and told all doctors that we did not give permission for anti-psychotic medication to be administered to Oliver.”

Mrs McGowan said staff at the hospital had been provided with letters from other doctors stating that Oliver was not mentally ill and was sensitive to anti-psychotic medications.

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