Paramedics called to an elderly man who was choking questioned whether they should continue to attempt resuscitation after he suffered cardiac arrest.
Retired horticultural salesman William Rimmer, known as Bill, was a resident of Abbey Place Care Home and Dementia Village on Abbey Road in Fartown when he began choking during breakfast on June 15, 2016. Despite the efforts of staff and paramedics who managed to dislodge the blockage, he died within minutes.
At an inquest in Bradford, coroner Oliver Longstaff concluded that 83-year-old Mr Rimmer’s death was due to a tragic accident.
He said medical professionals had followed the appropriate advice given to them by senior staff regarding a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) order signed by his wife and daughter.
A Liverpudlian by birth, Mr Rimmer lived in the city until retirement with his wife, Rona. Later the couple lived in North Wales. After suffering a stroke in 2007 it was discovered that he might have some form of dementia requiring residential care. He was consequently admitted to Abbey Place in February 2015. Mrs Rimmer died 11 days before her husband. The couple later had a joint funeral.
On the day of his death Mr Rimmer was taken to the communal dining room for breakfast. As he was eating, senior carer Natasha Costello heard him gasping loudly and saw that he appeared to be choking.
She ran over and patted his back in an effort to help and also tried to give him water. Other staff members joined in, one of whom performed the Heimlich manoeuvre in an attempt to clear his airway. Mr Rimmer had not stopped breathing but staff noticed it was “very shallow.”
The emergency services were called and Mr Rimmer was placed on his side in the recovery position. Ambulance personnel advised staff to move Mr Rimmer onto his back and to clear his airway, but Ms Costello said by that point the situation had gone “too far”.
Care Home manager Fiona Lindsay told the court that Mr Rimmer had no problems eating and had no history of choking. She said staff began first aid but that once Mr Rimmer went into cardiac arrest they did not attempt resuscitation, which was in line with his DNAR order.
Paramedic Paul Slassor, part of the Rapid Response Team working out of Huddersfield, managed to clear Mr Rimmer’s airway and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). However, the lack of a response prompted him to revert to the DNAR order and, following the advice of his clinical supervisor, resuscitation attempts were halted. Mr Rimmer was pronounced dead at the scene.
Dr Steven Dykes, Deputy Medical Director of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, supported the crew’s decision to stop CPR.
In a statement to the court he said that the action was “very appropriate”, adding: “They have reversed the condition causing the cardiac arrest but unfortunately the patient hasn’t improved and therefore CPR can be terminated.”
Pathologist Dr Lisa Barker said a post mortem showed Mr Rimmer’s death was consistent with choking.