KILLED BY HIS OWN SIGNET RING

A retired railway clerk died after swallowing his own signet ring in hospital, an inquest heard.

John Lopez, 73, had looked for the ring with his wife – but did not realise it was in his stomach.

The ring ended up blocking his gut, but hospital staff decided against manual removal, hoping it would be flushed away naturally.

By the time it was decided to remove his ring it was too late and Mr Lopez’s was killed by a build up of acid.

Westminster Coroner’s Court heard that Mr Lopez was admitted to Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, s w London, on November 24 last year.

He was initially treated for a urinary tract infection and given antibiotics.

On November 29 the signet ring went missing but despite a search it was not found and nothing was written in his medical notes.

Speech and language therapist Louise Pattison saw him the following day and noted he had to swallow twice.

Hew was x-rayed the following day and the ring was then found lodged at the bottom of his oesophagus and blocking the gut.

Doctors put Mr Lopez on a diet of soft foods hoping this would dislodge the jewellery.

But two days later the patient’s confused state persuaded doctors to transfer him to St George’s Hospital in Tooting for the ring to be removed.

In a statement Dr Andrew Rhodes said Mr Lopez, of (13) Lainson St, Wandsworth, s w London, was admitted with a ‘three day history of nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain’.

‘On examination it was felt he required oxygen.’

Although initially stable, his condition severely deteriorated on December 5.

‘From a respiratory point of view he needed oxygen as his oxygen saturation was only 68%, which was very low,’ said Dr Rhodes.

‘Clinical findings were his condition was consistent with pneumonia and intravenous antibiotics were given.

‘It was decided he wasn’t well enough to have the endoscopy.’

On December 5 he was transferred to intensive care where he died at 6.10pm.

A post mortem showed his lungs contained large amounts of mucous and pus, while stomach acids were breaking down lung tissue.

This was as result of food getting into his lungs after his oesophagus became blocked by the ring.

Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said: ‘John Lopez died as a result of a aspirated pneumonia as a result of oesophageal obstruction.’

She ruled that his death was an accident.

The coroner criticised staff at St Mary’s Hospital for their failure to help Mr Lopez when eating.

‘Generally in inquests we don’t take on board concerns about nursing care.

‘I wanted to hear about it here because it was quite clear Mr Lopez had problems with swallowing.

‘Given the evidence that he was given inappropriate food, that he had problems eating and drinking properly, and was eating without assistance […] it wasn’t going to help the ring to pass through his system.’

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