Sunday, March 02, 2008

Navy wren dead on floor

Accidents will happen. People can die from undiagnosed illnesses due to no fault of anyone. But in the case of Royal Navy Lieutenant Emma Douglas, there's a big question over responsibility for her death.

Douglas was an undiagnosed diabetic. After being ill for a week and vomiting blood, the medical officer on board the HMS Cornwall pronounced her fit for duty and sent her back to her cabin. A day later she collapsed with stomach cramps. But that's not why there's a question mark over her death: Douglas had not previously shown any of the symptoms of diabetes. But four days after being passed as fit for duty, and three days after collapsing with stomach cramps, Douglas was found collapsed on the floor of her cabin half naked. The duty watch sailor who found her described her as having "laboured breathing" to the officer of the day. Despite being known as a light drinker, her shipmates assumed she was drunk, and nobody checked on her for 24 hours -- by which time she was dead from diabetic keto-acidosis.

What I'd like to know is: is it normal for Royal Navy sailors who are vomiting blood to be pronounced fit for duty? Is it common practice for sailors supposed to be on duty to get drunk, and having drunk themselves into unconsciousness, are they normally left for 24 hours sprawled where they lie?

I think it says a lot about the British Navy culture that a sailor found unconscious on the floor is assumed to be drunk rather than sick.

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