Zac Gravatt death: Letter alleges doctor delayed treatment

by Jessie Chiang / 26 October, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Zac Gravatt

Zachary Gravatt. Photo / Supplied

A doctor out for dinner made a joke about finishing dessert before going to hospital to treat a critically ill young man, an inquest has been told.

Medical student Zachary Gravatt, who was 22, had been healthy and active before he died at Auckland Hospital in 2009 from meningococcal disease.

In 2011, a coroner found Mr Gravatt was not treated in a timely fashion and the District Health Board was ordered to pay the family compensation.

The inquest was re-opened after the family received an anonymous letter that questioned aspects of the DHB's investigation.

Coroner Morag McDowell has suppressed identities in the hearing.

Aspects of the letter's claims include an on-call doctor not responding to the initial call about Mr Gravatt's deteriorating health and he apparently laughed at a staff member who suggested the student had meningococcal disease.

The allegations also say the doctor refused to go to the hospital because he had been out dining in Ponsonby and wanted to finish eating his dessert.

When he did turn up with another doctor, it's claimed they were joking and demanding to know what all the fuss was about.

The claims were completely rejected by the on-call doctor, another doctor who was on-site and also another staff member who have all now given evidence.

The on-call doctor said he first diagnosed suspected meningococcal disease after a phone call from the on-site doctor, which ended around 6.15pm.

The inquest heard there was uncertainty about when the doctor on call arrived at the Department of Critical Care.

But it's generally accepted that the doctor got there about 7pm.

However, a staff member told the inquest she was the one who raised meningococcal disease with the doctor in a phone call while he was on the way to hospital.

She said the doctor asked her whether she was sure.

The staff member then raised her concerns with a colleague that the doctor had lied in the first coroner's inquest, which the doctor rejected.

The doctor also said the reason for taking more than half an hour to drive to the hospital from Ponsonby was heavy traffic.

Simon Mount, a lawyer assisting the coroner, said the normal driving time for the 2.8km distance was around 10 to 12 minutes.

He said the traffic would have been extraordinary for it to have taken more than half an hour.

The doctor said he didn't think getting to the hospital five or ten minutes earlier would have changed the outcome.

The staff member told the hearing Mr Gravatt's condition deteriorated very quickly.

She said sudden death was unusual, especially with someone so young and it could affect the whole unit. The staff member started crying while talking about how a new staff member had been assigned to Mr Gravatt.

She said they shouldn't have had to deal with such a traumatic event.

The anonymous letter

On 2 September 2016, the family were sent a letter with the words 'private and confidential' printed on the envelope.

In a statement, Mr Gravatt's father Lance Gravatt described the allegations in that letter as having a "devastating effect" on him and his family.

"Over the last seven years, we have been doing the best we can to come to terms with the circumstances surrounding Zachary's death," he said.

"However, receiving the letter has plunged us back to the very start. We now have no idea what happened to Zachary that night.

"The possibility that he may have suffered terribly for well over an hour, knowing he was going to die, and without his family by his side, breaks me. The letter has reopened all of our old wounds."

The family said they trusted the DHB and its investigation but that now may be marred by lies, deceit and unprofessionalism.

The inquest will resume on Monday.

This article was originally published by RNZ.


Prepare for a return to the 'old normal' of sharemarket volatility
100287 2018-12-18 00:00:00Z Investment

Prepare for a return to the 'old normal' of sharem…

by Pattrick Smellie

In the decade since the global financial crisis, investors have enjoyed a steady upward ride and very few shocks.

Read more
Is cryptocurrency a haven from market volatility?
100307 2018-12-18 00:00:00Z Investment

Is cryptocurrency a haven from market volatility?

by Nikki Mandow

It’s been a wild ride for cryptocurrencies over the past year, but can they become a stable store of wealth for investors?

Read more
Stop your new build from feeling cookie-cutter with these clever solutions
100101 2018-12-18 00:00:00Z Property

Stop your new build from feeling cookie-cutter wit…

by Noted

Building a new home but want something unique? These creative solutions prove new-builds and personality do go together.

Read more
Dumplings with Wings is the new place to get your dumpling fix
100543 2018-12-17 15:39:32Z Auckland Eats

Dumplings with Wings is the new place to get your …

by Alex Blackwood

Dumplings with Wings' colourful creations take cues from all over the world.

Read more
The Children Act doesn't do justice to Ian McEwan's novel
100520 2018-12-17 11:27:11Z Movies

The Children Act doesn't do justice to Ian McEwan'…

by James Robins

Emma Thompson may be on the bench but legal drama The Children Act is yet another example of the limits of literary adaptation.

Read more
After a testing year, can Simon Bridges survive 2019?
100499 2018-12-17 08:57:04Z Politics

After a testing year, can Simon Bridges survive 20…

by Jane Patterson

Simon Bridges has held on to the National Party leadership as a testing year ends, but how secure is his position? He says he's not worried.

Read more
Capital offences: A grammarian on nouns proper and common
99726 2018-12-17 00:00:00Z Education

Capital offences: A grammarian on nouns proper and…

by Ray Prebble

A look at the nuances of nouns.

Read more
Two small South Island towns' annual clash for the Cup o' Wood
99541 2018-12-17 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Two small South Island towns' annual clash for the…

by Mike White

For 70 years, neighbouring Central Otago villages St Bathans and Becks have taken to the rugby field to battle for the Wooden Cup.

Read more