13 Apr 2012

Coroner says health system not to blame for death

10:05 pm on 13 April 2012

A coroner does not think health officials failed a homeless man suffering from a brain tumour who died after being evicted from a District Health Board hostel.

The family of John David Leach says he has been let down by the health system, as the tumour was not discovered until after he died and may have contributed to his deteriorating behaviour.

The 52-year-old died in August 2009 in an abandoned Wellington building being prepared for demolition.

The former construction worker at Wellington Hospital had been living at Capital & Coast DHB's Riddiford hostel in the suburb of Newtown before he was evicted.

In the months before his death, Mr Leach's well-being had declined significantly. He was walking around the hostel naked and not knowing where he was or what he was doing.

A post-mortem reveaked that he had a large brain tumor.

Coroner Ian Smith says given the circumstances, a tumour is not something medical officials would have been looking for and Mr Leach had been robustly assessed physically and mentally.

However, Mr Leach's brother, Peter Leach, is angry, as the tumour was found only after the death and may have contributed to his behaviour.

He wants assurances from Capital & Coast that people like his brother do not slip through the system again.