A hospital has been criticised after a young woman died in A&E because her diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) was mistaken for a hangover.
NHS ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor concluded that the death of 26-year-old Phillippa Odlin (pictured) was “avoidable” because she would have lived if her diabetes had been correctly identified and treated.
Odlin died in February 2014 hours after doctors at London’s North Middlesex Hospital failed to identify that she had developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening short-term complication.
Mellor said that Odlin received severely inadequate care due to “unacceptable” failings, which included her being discharged when she needed urgent treatment having not received a blood test, which meant the DKA was missed. Odlin was found dead in her home by her flatmate the next morning.
DKA occurs when a lack of insulin prevents the body from using glucose to produce energy. This leads to the body burning fatty acids and creating chemicals called ketones – a high level of ketone bodies in the blood can cause someone with type 1 diabetes or some insulin-treated people with type 2 diabetes to become extremely ill.
Mellor’s investigation found that: “Although we recognise that the unfortunate turn of events within 24 hours and fatal outcome were most unusual, we have concluded that the care and treatment provided for Miss Odlin fell so far below the applicable standards that it amounted to service failure.
“Miss Odlin’s death would have been avoided if she had been appropriately assessed in A&E. If [she] had had the appropriate tests then doctors would have admitted her to hospital so she could have received life-saving treatment.”
A spokesman for the hospital said: “We are determined to improve our standards and ensure that all our staff are aware of the risks associated with a patient who has an underlying condition of diabetes and who has consumed a considerable quantity of alcohol. We hope by doing so we will be able to help prevent similar tragedies.”
Odlin’s case is part of a detailed dossier that Mellor released on Monday 31 October which outlines 100 cases when hospital and GP surgery staff committed serious blunders that were not investigated properly following an initial complaint.
The 100 cases will be anonymous. But Jerry and Jody Odli, Phillippa’s parents, agreed for their daughter’s case to be made public so that A&E staff across Britain could be made more aware of the symptoms of DKA in people with diabetes.
Picture: Guardian via Jerry Odlin

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Type 2 diabetes found to be a ‘significant risk factor’ among stroke victims

More evidence has been published which supports that diabetes is a “significant…

Conversation about doctors’ appointments occurring virtually rumbles on

More than half of GP appointments are still being delivered remotely in…

Twice daily dairy intakes could reduce type 2 diabetes risk

Eating cheese, yoghurt or eggs twice a day could help lower the…