Kiwi Polemicist

September 23, 2008

Coroner’s report on the death of Folole Muliaga

Practically everyone will have heard of Folole Muliaga who died last year after her power was disconnected: click here to see a summary of the story. Mrs Muliaga was on supplemental oxygen, which is different to being on a ventilator for life support.

Newstalk ZB has the coroner’s report available in PDF. I could make a great many comments on this situation, but out of respect for the family I will cover only three points. My mother followed the same path as Mrs Muliaga, i.e. morbid obesity leading to fatal congestive heart failure, so I have a good understanding of the medical side of the situation and I am not insensitive towards the family. My comments are as follows:

1) The coroner’s report says that “The cessation of oxygen therapy and the stress arising from the fact of the disconnection (as opposed to the way in which the power was disconnected) have contributed to her death”. There is a huge difference between “contributed” and “caused”” and in my humble opinion politicians selfishly used this situation as an excuse to try and score some brownie points. I regard this matter as one that has been made political, rather than one that warrants the attention of politicians.

2) In paragraph 76 the coroner’s report says “I have formed the impression that Mrs Muliaga was a proud Samoan woman who was sufficiently proficient in the English language to enable her to complete a teaching qualification in New Zealand”. Para 75 says “…I accept Nurse Beaumont-Orr’s evidence that discussions with Mrs Muliaga as to her care were open and frank two way discussions and that Mrs Muliaga understood her condition”. Para. 64 the doctor’s report is quoted: “Diana Hart [a nurse] did empasise to the patient on her last visit that in the event of any problems or deteriorations to go the the Accident and Emergency department at Middlemore Hospital without delay”.

There is an issue of personal responsibility here. Para. 21 says that technician arrived to do the disconnection at around 10:25 am, and para. 31 says that the first ambulance call was recorded at 1:30 pm. According to the coroner Mrs Muliaga understood the gravity of her situation – congestive heart failure is a terminal condition – and she had almost three hours in which she could have called an ambulance. It may be that Mrs Muliaga chose to let the illness take its natural course; judging by what I can find in the coroner’s report she had been in congestive heart failure for about five years, which is the usual life span once someone has been diagnosed with CHF.

I cannot apportion any blame to the power company, just as I would not apportion blame to the driver of car who crashed and knocked out the power supply to Mrs Muliaga’s house.

3) There is a separate but related issue that I regard as very serious. When my mother was in hospital and near the end of her life a doctor told me that they had made a do-not-resuscitate decision regarding my mother: this decision was made without consultation with me or my mother and I was shocked by arrogance of this (it was a sensible decision but that is beside the point). I see in the coroner’s report that the doctors treating Mrs Muliaga also made a do-not-resuscitate decision without consulting Mrs Muliaga and her family (para. 68), and since my mother was in a different hospital I am led to conclude that doctors are playing God all over New Zealand.

Para. 70 quotes the Middlemore Hospital policy regarding do-not-resuscitate decisions: “There may be cases where the patient or family requests resuscitation, yet the medical practitioner may deem the outcome futile or inappropriate. While is it important to find out the patient and family views, the decision is ultimately that of the medical practitioner”. (Update 20-5-09: I have heard a first hand account describing another unilateral do-not-resuscitate decision made by staff at Middlemore Hospital, i.e. a decision made without consulting the patient or the patient’s family.)

The doctors are paid by the State, and what this is saying is the State will not give resuscitation to you if it does not consider it to be worthwhile: the arrogance of this is breathtaking.

The State has no right to be making any medical decisions regarding citizens, and when the State has the power of life and death we are in a dangerous situation.


  1. […] do-not-resuscitate decisions, so the State is deciding who will live and who will die (see this post, point […]

    Pingback by Go to the ant, O classical liberalist « CCL: Christian Classical Liberalist — October 27, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  2. […] Coroner’s report on the death of Folole Muliaga […]

    Pingback by Dutch court stops teen Laura Dekker sailing around the world « Kiwi Polemicist — August 29, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

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