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Inquest into the death of Indigenous man who died in agonising pain to begin in Dubbo next week

Dechlan Brennan -

WARNING: The following article contains the names and images of people who have died.

A coronial inquest will open next Monday to examine the death of Kamilaroi Dunghutti man Ricky "Dougie" Hampson Jr, who died with perforated stomach ulcers just hours after he had been discharged from Dubbo Hospital without a diagnosis.

In August 2021, Dougie Hampson, 36, presented to Dubbo Hospital with an elevated heart rate and a "popping" and "tearing" sensation in his stomach. He was in agonising pain.

The National Justice Project said rather than being properly examined, given an X-ray or diagnosis, the father of eight was simply "given a cocktail of opioids and painkillers, discharged, and told by hospital staff to go home and simply 'drink water'".

His family said during his 18 hours in Dubbo hospital, he was given inadequate care and discharged without even being seen by a senior doctor. Furthermore, they argue racism played a key role in how Dougie was treated in his last hours alive.

Dougie's father, Ricky Hampson Snr, told National Indigenous Times Dougie was a joker who'd always encouraged everyone to laugh and celebrate during the holidays.

"You know, he'd do anything for you," Mr Hampson Snr said.

"He was kindhearted, he loved his children to death. They were his main priority."

The eldest of four was a lover of sport, and his father said there were talks with the local community in the ACT - where he grew up - to place a plaque on the basketball courts where he played with other children in his youth.

"It just goes to show you the sort of person he was: He was always helpful; he was always encouraging. He was unique, just one of a kind," he said.

"Even in the hospital, when we met with them, they told us that he was polite to staff, even though he was screaming in pain, he was still polite."

The family have been protesting the two-and-a-half years since Dougie's death and want someone to be held accountable.

"He [Dougie] should never have been sedated," Mr Hampson Snr said.

"They took away his ability to be able to advocate for himself while he was there…so we want justice for that, we want someone to be held accountable."

Mr Hampson Snr said he wanted change, highlighting the story of his eight-year-old grandson asking his mother: "If I go to hospital, will I die?"

"Our younger generation doesn't need to know or have them feelings. They need to feel safe when they go to hospital too. We want better healthcare for Aboriginal people," he said.

The family is calling for systemic change in the NSW healthcare system, including the use of Aboriginal liaison officers and more education for hospital staff so First Nations patients can receive culturally appropriate care.

National Justice Project chief executive George Newhouse said previously systematic issues were impacting the health of Indigenous people.

"The language of Closing the Gap looks at things like diabetes rates, or obesity, or attending school," he said.

"The system doesn't really analyse its role or look at or critique its role in adverse health outcomes and the harm that's caused to First Nations people."

A series of hearings recently have found racial bias playing a role in the death of Indigenous people.

In 2021, an inquest into the death of 27-year-old Wiradjuri woman Naomi Williams at Tumut Hospital found implicit bias led to the hospital's clear and ongoing inadequacies in her care.

In 2020 Queensland's Office of the Health Ombudsman issued a damning report on the conduct of Bamaga Hospital surrounding the death of six-year-old Torres Strait Islander boy, Charlie Gowa, in 2017.

For Mr Hampson Snr, he is clear in what needs to happen in this case, as well as across Australia.

"Just stop this systemic racism. It's killing our people," he said.

The inquest begins in Dubbo on February 26

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