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Friday, 27 July, 2001, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Hospital 'neglected' tourist
Rhodes in Greece
Christopher Rochester died on his fourth day in Rhodes
A British holidaymaker who fell from a balcony in a Greek holiday apartment died after being neglected by hospital staff.

North Durham Coroner Andrew Tweddle told relatives of Christopher Rochester, 24, he was recording a verdict of accidental death contributed to by neglect.

The coroner heard from an expert that the doctor who attended Mr Rochester may have been a trainee.

The dead man's family is now considering taking legal action against the hospital.

The tragedy of this is that people go on holiday and don't expect to come back in a coffin

Terence Carney, solicitor
Mr Tweddle said: "After thinking about it long and hard I can't record a verdict of unlawful killing.

"This clearly is a case of neglect and one where it was continuous.

"This is a case that has given me great concern about the standards of medical care that Christopher received while he was in Rhodes.

"I sincerely hope that lessons can be learned."

'Pursue civil action'

After the verdict Mr Rochester's family vowed to bring the Greek medical staff to book through a possible civil action.

His stepfather George Cummings said: "Come hell or high water we are determined that the medical staff on duty that night will be held responsible."

Family solicitor Terence Carney said: "The family will now give consideration as to whether to pursue a civil action against the hospital authorities.

Christopher Rochester and his girlfriend
Christopher Rochester with his girlfriend
"The tragedy of this is that people go on holiday and don't expect to come back in a coffin.

"They expect the same standard of care that they would get in a British hospital.

"It is not some third-world country we are talking about here."

The coroner considered his verdict overnight after a day-long inquest on Thursday heard how Mr Rochester was "left to die" after falling 40 feet from a rooftop apartment on the island of Rhodes.

'No compassion'

The inquest had heard how Mr Rochester had to wait 40 minutes for an ambulance.

Mr Rochester, of Ullswater Road, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, had travelled to Rhodes with a friend to stay with his brother Keith who was a nightclub DJ in the party district of Faliraki.

He had only been on the island four days when the fatal fall occurred after a night out drinking with friends on 10 June, 2000.

His brother Keith, also from Ullswater Road, said hospital staff showed "no compassion" as they hauled him into an x-ray room.

Despite sweating profusely and asking for a drink, Christopher received no care from two nurses.

Keith was forced to cup his hands to carry water from a drinking fountain.

'Screamed with pain'

His friend, David Vest, told the court how Christopher had screamed with pain as hospital porters knocked into doors as they took him on a stretcher to an orthopaedic ward.

Within hours, he was dead.

Independent expert Professor Anthony Redmond expressed grave concerns that the doctor was a trainee, after reports from the Greek authorities suggested he was not fully qualified.

He said: "It is not clearly stated in the notes, but it something I would wish to see established one way or the other."

Professor Redmond said the dead man's symptoms including sweating, a raging thirst, pale skin and agitation were the hallmarks of medical shock which even the most junior of doctors would realise indicated major internal haemorrhaging.

Professor Redmond, a member of both the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, described the hospital's treatment as "grossly negligent".

"I believe a doctor acting responsibly would have done much more for this patient," he said.

Swapped kidney

"His management fell far short of any minimum standard you would expect in any European hospital at this present time."

The Greek authorities registered Mr Rochester's cause of death as oligaemic shock, bleeding to death, claiming the impact of his fall had severed two major blood vessels to the young man's kidney.

A Greek pathologist who carried out an autopsy on Mr Rochester's body swapped one of his kidneys with someone else's organ before returning the body to the dead man's family, the inquest heard.

Dr Paul Barratt, consultant pathologist from Dryburn Hospital in County Durham, said the kidney of a different man had probably been sent back with the body, but he could not say why that had occurred.

He said: "It certainly isn't within the usual realm of what a pathologist would do."

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