Care patient choked to death on chocolate cake

Richard Stride, the director of the Groundlings Theatre in Portsea

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A CARE patient choked to death on chocolate fudge cake after she panicked that someone else was going to eat it, an inquest heard.

Christine Rugg, who had Down’s Syndrome and needed round the clock care, put four bite-sized bits of cake into her mouth when another patient burst into the room.

Staff at the Mencap-run home in London Road, Waterlooville, slapped her on the back in a bid to dislodge the food and tried the Heimlich manoeuvre but they could not help her. Despite further efforts of paramedics and staff at Queen Alexandra Hospital the 47-year-old died.

A spokeswoman for the home said all their staff were fully trained in first aid.

Hampshire police investigated the case after the Health and Safety Executive called them in, following a report of the death from Mencap.

But Detective Sergeant Scott MacKechnie told the inquest there was nothing suspicious about Miss Rugg’s death.

In a statement read out Dr Simon Hunter, from the hospital, said: ‘The patient had been eating food when she panicked. Someone had come into the room and she, the patient, had stuffed all the food into her mouth.’

Dr Judith O’Higgins, who carried out the post mortem examination, said: ‘In my opinion death was due to an airway obstruction due to food aspiration.’

The inquest at Portsmouth’s Guildhall heard Miss Rugg, who has no family and had lived at the home for a number of years, was normally a slow eater.

Coroner David Horsley said: ‘She behaved totally out of character and put an enormous quantity of food in her mouth at once, unfortunately that has blocked her airway.’

He recorded her death as accidental.