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Inquest into death of Indigenous man begins in Dubbo

Dechlan Brennan -

An Indigenous man who died less than 24 hours after being discharged from Dubbo hospital was wrongly diagnosed with a drug-induced syndrome to help explain his "ten out of ten" pain, an inquest has been told.

The coronial inquest before Deputy State Coroner Erin Kennedy is investigating circumstances surrounding the death of Kamilaroi-Dunghutti man Ricky 'Dougie' Hampson Jr, who presented to Dubbo hospital on August 14, 2021 after feeling a popping sensation in his stomach that left him "writhing in pain" in the waiting room.

The doctor, who cannot be named, diagnosed Mr Hampson Jr with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) - a condition caused by regular and long-term cannabis use. The patient had said he had smoked cannabis recently.

Counsel-assisting the coroner, Simeon Beckett SC, told the inquest on Monday the doctor later admitted this was an incorrect diagnosis. Mr Beckett said the question therefore arises how an "experienced and credentialed doctor...would reach a flawed diagnosis."

Mr Beckett said Mr Hampson Jr was sedated overnight with opiates and droperidol - a strong sedative often used in the prevention of nausea and vomiting. His vital signs - including heart rate and breathing - were high during his time at the hospital but had settled prior to being discharged.

On the morning of the 15th, Mr Hampson Jr was discharged from the hospital with over-the-counter painkillers. The inquest was told it was currently unclear when he last was examined by a doctor, and a witness recalled he seemed in "obvious discomfort" at the time of leaving the hospital.

Mr Hampson Jr died the next morning at a friend's house from perforated duodenal ulcers.

The hearing will look at the steps through the healthcare system that led to his death, as well as analysing if Mr Hampson Jr's care at Dubbo Hospital was adversely affected by conscious - or unconscious - bias, especially in relation to his race.

Over 15 per cent of Dubbo's population identify as Aboriginal with the inquest hearing one doctor estimated 29 per cent of their patients at Dubbo Hospital are First Nations.

Mr Beckett said he would explore why Mr Hampson Jr's pain was not investigated by staff at the hospital – including through scans - and along with his prior drug usage and race, why his medical records listed his next-of-kin as a correctional facility that he was last an inmate at more than a year previously.

"I want to explore matters such as whether Dougie's cannabis use, having been a prisoner, or being Aboriginal had any bearing on the diagnosis," Mr Beckett told the court.

Ms Kennedy earlier acknowledged the family and the process of grief in a public setting, two and a half years after Mr Hampson Jr's death.

"Grieving is something that most people get to do in their own way, in their own time, privately," she told the family, many of whom wore shirts emblazoned with an image of Mr Hampson Jr.

"This is very public, and very, very difficult."

The hearing continues.

13YARN 13 92 76

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