A nurse has insisted a woman who died after being discharged from an abortion clinic appeared to be well enough to leave, despite vomiting and hyper-ventilating and appearing “not with it all”, according to the taxi driver who collected her.
At the start of a week-long inquest at West London Coroner’s Court into Aisha Chithira’s death, nurse Gemma Pullen denied a claim Chithira was “swaying” and appeared “drunk” as she left the Marie Stopes clinic.
Chithira, who lives in Ireland, died after “extensive internal bleeding” and cardiac arrest in a taxi after she had the termination on January 21, 2012.
The doctor and two nurses faced criminal charges over her death but were all acquitted in 2016 when prosecutors presented no evidence.
Gemma Pullen, one of the nurses who was acquitted, told the inquest on Thursday that Chithira, 31, was not showing signs of being seriously unwell.
Corinne Slingo, who was representing Marie Stopes, told Pullen: “The taxi driver says he saw his passenger walking out of the building. He was quite shocked, ‘She didn’t seem with it at all’.
“‘She looked like she was drunk’.”
“It doesn’t sound right to me,” Pullen said of the taxi driver’s claim. “She was walking in front of me unaided. She wasn’t swaying, she was walking normally.”
The nurse added symptoms such as bleeding, feeling overheated and vomiting, which Chithira had shown earlier, were not unusual for women who had just had abortions.
Chithira’s blood pressure and pulse were taken several times between the procedure and her leaving the clinic and were fine each time, Pullen added.
Under questioning from lawyers, Pullen said Chithira appeared “anxious” but not “agitated”. Nurses had found she was bleeding but only at a level that was “normal at that stage”.
When asked if Chithira was showing any signs of being “seriously ill” when she got in the cab, Pullen said: “There was nothing on that night that indicated to me that she was internally bleeding... There was nothing to indicate to me that she was seriously unwell.”
She insisted she would not have discharged her if she had been concerned for her safety.
Chithira, who was originally from Malawi but lived in Ireland, was meant to stay at her cousin’s home in Slough after her procedure.
In a statement to the inquest read out by the family’s lawyer, Chithari’s widower Ryan Kapengule said she had not told her family what procedure she was undergoing for fear of worrying them.
She told them it was an “in and out, straight forward procedure”, Kapengule said.
He spoke to his wife by phone as she was preparing to leave the clinic but told him she was “too weak to speak” and ended their call.
His texts asking to call back went unanswered and Kapengule found out his wife had died in the early hours of the next morning from her cousin.
The inquest heard Chithira feared health complications if she carried her latest pregnancy to term, having previously had stillborn twins and given birth to a daughter by caesarian.
She was the last patient on the ward when she left and the clinic had carried out 33 procedures that day, the inquest heard.
Chithira “couldn’t stay overnight which is what she was asking for” and was kept back in the ward for another 20 or 30 minutes after she vomited while her blood pressure was checked again, Pullen said.
Dr Adedayo Adedeji, who carried out the procedure, told the inquest there was no sign of bleeding at the end of the surgery.
“There was a small tear at the neck of the womb at the right side caused by the foetal parts that were coming out,” he said, denying it was caused by damage from his surgery.
Chithari had at one point sat or fallen to the floor when she went to the toilet with a health care assistant but was well enough to walk back to the ward afterwards, Pullen said.
She said was “ready to go now” as she left and walked between 20 and 30 metres to the taxi unaided ahead of Pullen, the nurse added.
Pullen, nurse Margaret Miller and Dr Adedeji were all charged with Chithira’s manslaughter in the wake of her death.
They were also each charged with “failing to take reasonable care of the health and safety” of Chithira who was affected by their “acts of omission at work”.
The prosecution offered no evidence for any of the charges when the trial was due to begin.
The inquest continues.