Public interest in investigating death of Auckland father-of-six, coroner says

Joseph Junior Joe died in Auckland Hospital in April 2018. (File photo)
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Joseph Junior Joe died in Auckland Hospital in April 2018. (File photo)

The hospital treatment a father-of-six received in the days before his death raised ‘concerns’ with a coroner.

Joseph Junior Joe, 49, died in Auckland Hospital in April 2018 of a heart condition, where blood pooled between his chest wall and lungs, following surgery to put place a stent.

Coroner Tania Tetitaha concluded that a referral to the Health and Disability Commissioner was warranted as there is a public interest in investigating Joe’s death.

Joe, who lived in Ōtara with whānau had a number of ongoing medical issues, the coroner said, but was still active in sports and his children.

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He was described by his family as “always supportive and helpful at family gatherings” and “insisted” on being in charge of the kitchen.

He had persistent heart problems and had a tear in the lining of his aorta in 2011. In 2015 he had endocarditis, inflammation of the heart valve, as well as blood clots, while in 2017 he had again endocarditis and stroke.

Tetitaha said Joe also suffered from gout, high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease.

Joe was of Cook Islands and Maori descent. The corner noted that Pacific Islanders had poorer health outcomes.

RNZ

The healthcare system has been called “unacceptably racist”, with Pasifika suffering the worst health inequities.

“In short, Pacific people are dying younger and have higher rates of chronic disease as well as significantly higher cardiovascular death rates than the general population.”

Tetitaha noted that heart disease was the leading cause of death among Pacific people.

Joe went to the hospital on March 28, 2018 with chest pains and ended up having emergency surgery to have a stent placed.

He was transferred to intensive care and complained of chest pain over the next few days.

On April 4, he complained the pain was “nine out of ten” – he died the following day.

The coroner said the continued pain Joe felt after the surgery caused her to feel “concerned” about the care he received.

Dr Parma Nand, speaking on behalf of Te Whatu Ora, said when Joe’s chest pain increased the medical team knew there was a possibility that there was a problem with the stent, but s worried about the health risks if they investigated.

The medical team’s notes did not show whether the decision not to investigate was discussed with Joe.

A witness statement from his younger brother said the family was unaware of the complexity of his medical condition.

“Given the critical nature of the decision not to investigate the stent issue, Mr. Joe should have been fully informed and given the choice to investigate further,” Tetitaha said.

“There are concerns about the care Mr. Joe received, including whether it met the standards set out in the Health and Disability Services Code consumers’ right to be fully informed,” said the coroner Tetitaha.

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