The family of a teenage boy who died in hospital has started a petition to the Government to make autism and learning disability training mandatory for doctors and nurses.

Oliver McGowan was 18 when he died in Southmead Hospital in Bristol in November 2016. He suffered simple partial seizures on 22 October 2016, but complications in his care caused his condition to deteriorate, and Oliver sadly passed away on 11 November.

Despite his parents vehement objections, Oliver was given the antipsychotic drug Olanzapine by doctors. Oliver had previously had allergic reactions to antipsychotic medication, and also told medical staff twice that he did not want the medication. Specialist registrar Dr Luke Canham wrote on his allergy chart that he should not be given antipsychotics. Doctors defied both his parents and Oliver’s wishes, and while he was intubated, he was given the drug.

This caused an adverse reaction in Oliver, and he developed neuroleptic malignant syndrome, and coupled with the seizures caused a hypoxic brain injury. This, in combination with pneumonia, led to Oliver’s untimely passing.

Dr Peter Harrowing concluded at the inquest into Oliver’s death, however, that the doctors did the right thing in prescribing the medication – despite independent expert Dr Nigel Langford, a consultant in clinical pharmacology, telling the court that it was “possible” that Oliver would still be alive had he not been prescribed Olanzapine.

In addition, Oliver’s mum Paula gave doctors his Autism Passport detailing the reasonable adjustments he required, which was barely given a glance, and he was restrained while trying to walk around – a normal part of his seizure activity.

Oliver’s parents are now campaigning to ensure doctors and nurses receive mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism, ensuring that all disabled people are given the standard of care that they deserve – a standard of care which, despite his family’s best attempts, Oliver did not receive.

In a statement to Inquest, Paula McGowan said: “It is clear from the evidence that no reasonable adjustments were made for Oliver in A&E on his arrival at Southmead Hospital. We believe this environment heightened his anxiety and was not appropriate for a teenager with autism and a learning disability.

“We sadly still consider that the doctors who treated Oliver were arrogant and dismissive of Oliver’s particular needs and we are therefore distressed and concerned that the coroner has made no recommendations to avoid future deaths.”

In spite of their Parliamentary petition reaching over 27,000 signatures, the Government have not responded to the McGowan’s petition.

Sign the petition here.

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