Inquest: Aged care death coronial findings released
THE death of a woman at Ozcare Malanda has been marked "undetermined" after the Far Northern Coroner was unable to rule on whether or not the terminally ill woman had been smothered while unconscious.
Stella Hamilton had been in palliative care at the aged care centre when she was found dead on July 31, 2016 with her sheet and blanket covering her face.
After a two-day inquest, Coroner Nerida Wilson found that someone had intentionally placed the bedcovers over Mrs Hamilton's head.
"There is insufficient evidence before me to identify the person who placed the bedcovers over Mrs Hamilton's head," she said.
"I cannot determine if the bedclothes were placed over Mrs Hamilton's head before or after her last breath."
Coroner Wilson also could not determine whether the Mrs Hamilton suffocated as a result of the bedding.
The inquest heard that Mrs Hamilton had been receiving round the clock care by her children Caroline Britton, Fiona Hamilton and Hamish Hamilton and that all three had, at some point, visited the centre on the day she was found dead.
Coroner Wilson found that after enrolled nurse Jenny Plowman found Mrs Hamilton dead she heard Fiona Hamilton say, "Hamish said that if we covered her head she would go quicker".
A sliding door from the room to the courtyard was also slightly ajar.
"Hamish was known to use this entry as the preferred access to his mother's room," Coroner Wilson said.
The court heard that five days before her mother's death, Caroline Britton spoke with Dr Diana House at Ozcare "about the long blue dream" and that the doctor "believed she was being requested to euthanise Mrs Hamilton".
Coroner Wilson said that these circumstances "seem at first to lead to an outcome that might seem obvious".
"I have considered that an assessment of only that evidence, the evidence that fits that outcome, excludes other significant evidence and factors including there are no witnesses to the event, Mrs Hamilton was at the brink of death," she said.
"A thorough police investigation concluded that it was unlikely an offence had occurred."
Coroner Wilson did not make any recommendations on whether CCTV should be implemented at the centre noting "it would require a whole of industry approach and the will of various legislatures, regulators and industry providers".