Families need help with investigations, say relatives of woman who died of dairy allergy | Allergies


The family of Celia Marsh, who suffered fatal anaphylaxis after eating a ‘vegan’ Pret a Manger wrap contaminated with milk protein, have called for it to be made much easier for bereaved loved ones to be legally represented at the complex investigations.

Those close to Marsh believe that in cases like theirs, involving powerful corporations, convoluted supply chains and difficult science, it would be impossible to uncover the truth about what happened without full legal support from the outset. beginning.

Marsh, 41, from Melksham, Wiltshire, who suffered from a severe dairy allergy, died two hours after eating a ‘super vegetarian rainbow flatbread’ bought from a Pret in Bath during shopping after Christmas in 2017.

On Thursday, Avon’s senior coroner, Maria Voisin, found the package contained a “dairy-free coconut yogurt alternative” that included milk protein, which prompted Marsh’s anaphylaxis.

During a two-week investigation in Bristol, a complicated supply chain, which involved companies in three countries, and difficult medical evidence emerged. Over 5,000 pages of documents were released and 33 witnesses testified.

Gareth Gower, Celia’s brother, told the Guardian it was “surprising” to think some families don’t have legal support for cases like theirs.

He said: ‘No family can ever be prepared for the harrowing experience of the coronary system. Trying to navigate it, while mourning the loss of a loved one, is unfathomable.

“Cases like Celia’s are extremely complicated and require highly specialized experts in pathology, allergy and respiratory medicine, and environmental health. How could it be remotely possible for a family of [properly question] these witnesses without lawyers at their side?

There is no automatic state funding for a family’s legal costs during an inquest, although state funding is sometimes available depending on the financial situation and the nature of the death. Marsh’s family managed to get help from allergy law firm Leigh Day.

Gareth Gower added: “Family funded legal representation in a complex coroner’s inquest is out of reach for most due to the high cost. Families must have the right to be represented by a lawyer and to have their loved one heard in the coroneral system.

“As a family, we believe we would not be able to drive positive change and help prevent future tragedies if the failures in the food safety process had not been uncovered by our team of legal experts. . It is clear to us that the legal family funding system in the coronary system is simply not fit for purpose.

Other families who have lost loved ones to allergic reactions have expressed frustration with the way these often very complex cases are handled by coroner’s courts.

The family of Owen Carey, who was allergic to dairy products and died an hour after eating buttermilk marinated chicken at a restaurant on his 18th birthday, have previously said the process was “chaotic”.

Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, whose 15-year-old daughter Natasha died in 2016 after eating a Pret baguette containing sesame seeds, said on Friday: “In the 18 months since Natasha died, we have spent most of our own savings in legal fees. , trying and failing to navigate the complex coronary system. We didn’t know where to turn because there was no money.

They too continued to be represented by Leigh Day. “We know other families have ended up in coroner’s court with little or no legal representation,” Ednan-Laperouse said.

Nadim Ednan-Laperouse and Gareth Gower outside Coroner’s Court at Ashton Mansion House, Bristol on September 15, 2022. Photography: Adam Hughes/SWNS

Michelle Victor, partner at Leigh Day who specializes in food safety, said: “Families without legal representation may be subject to a glaring power imbalance in the coronary tribunal.

“Allergy-related deaths are not always properly investigated as part of the coronary process and may be incorrectly recorded as natural deaths if families lack legal representation.”

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