Choke victim may have suffered seizure

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An Acton man who died after choking on his dinner at the hospital where he was being treated may have suffered an epileptic seizure, an inquest has heard.

Samuel Baker, 33, of Clay Hall Place, had been a patient at the Wedgewood Unit at the West Suffolk Hospital at the time of his death.

Today (Monday) an inquest at Bury St Edmunds was told that despite efforts by staff at the unit and the hospital’s emergency department, Mr Baker could not be revived.

Assistant Suffolk Coroner Nigel Parsley said Mr Baker had a long history of paranoid schizophrenia and had been at the hospital for almost a year when on February 16, he was seen to become unsteady on his feet while queuing for his meal.

The inquest heard that Mr Baker assured staff and other patients that he did not need assistance and then sat at a table where, after starting to eat, he appeared to suffer a fit and choked on his food.

Later examination of CCTV recordings confirmed that Mr Baker appeared to be having a seizure before falling to the floor.

A care assistant activated an alarm and nursing staff were on the scene almost immediately from an adjoining ward and attempted to revive Mr Baker and help remove food from his throat.

Mr Baker was taken to the hospital’s emergency department where efforts to save him continued but he could not be revived.

A post mortem examination showed that Mr Baker’s death had been due to a cardiac arrest and choking on food.

Further tests were unable to establish whether medication prescribed to Mr Baker could have contributed to the onset of an epileptic fit.

The inquest heard that a detailed investigation was launched by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust to establish if any procedures needed to be changed in the light of Mr Baker’s death.

Assistant Coroner Mr Parsley said the Trust had identified a number of areas where improvements could be made, but concluded that none would have changed what had happened to Mr Baker.

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, the assistant coroner said: “This would appear to have been a tragic occurrence and one which is tragic particularly due to the timing of the seizure.

“It is highly possible had the seizure occurred when Sam was not eating he might have survived.”