GPs failed to spot boy's fatal illness

The parents of a five-year-old Norfolk boy who died from a heart attack after a string of medical professionals failed to diagnose his condition said last night that they were considering legal action.

The parents of a five-year-old Norfolk boy who died from a heart attack after a string of medical professionals failed to diagnose his condition said last night that they were considering legal action.

Daniel Armitage, from North Walsham, died on May 1 last year after being taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

A huge cancerous growth which had been overlooked by doctors was blocking his airways and stopped him breathing, an inquest in Norwich heard yesterday.

Over the previous six months the Millfield Primary School pupil had been taken to see doctors on five occasions but each time his parents were given a different diagnosis.


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It was not until he suffered a violent attack and was taken to the N&N - by which time his heart had stopped beating - that the true nature of his condition was recognised. The consultant who event-ually recognised his condition as acute lymphoma told the inquest: "I would have been very concerned about Daniel's symptoms."

After the coroner recorded a verdict of death from natural causes, Daniel's parents Mandi Cox and Nigel Armitage said they were relieved it was over but added: "We will be pursuing the matter further."

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Earlier Mr Armitage said: "The first time we knew it was cancer was when they turned the ventilator off in hospital, took an X-ray, and found a big tumour which was pressing on his windpipe.

"Children sometimes die after fighting a long illness, or in an accident, but you don't expect them to be running around one moment and gone the next. We feel cheated."

The inquest heard Miss Cox had first taken Daniel to the GP the previous November because he had been suffering from a persistent cough. At times this was so bad that he was sick, ran a high temperature and even coughed up blood. But medics said it was probably a virus and prescribed antibiotics.

Daniel was taken to see doctors on four more occasions and each time his parents were told it was either a virus, tonsillitis, attention-seeking breath holding or panic attacks.

Describing an alarming attack two days before Daniel's death, Miss Cox said: "It was the most scary thing. His lips were going pale and his whole body was shaking, trying to get some air in."

Mr Armitage told the inquest that the next day Dr Anna Malpas-Sands, who did not have access to his previous notes, told him not to worry and not to do anything "even if he passes out". Dr Malpas-Sands said it was panic attacks and added: "He will breathe again".

The following day Daniel suffered the attack which was to claim his life. Mr Armitage said: "My first instinct was to call an ambulance but after what the doctor said, I thought keep calm. I wanted to call but I didn't."

But Daniel did not breathe again and when an ambulance was eventually called there was little that could be done despite paramedics' frantic attempts to revive him.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Nandu Thalange, who tended to Daniel once he arrived at the hospital, said that the condition was not easy to diagnose and he had seen it only once every two to three years. But he added: "I would have been very concerned about Daniel's symptoms."

Coroner William Armstrong said it was not the purpose of the inquest to apportion blame. He added: "I express my deepest sympathy to Daniel's parents, they must have many happy memories of his all-too-short life."

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