Family wants answers over alleged mistreatment

Bradley and Philamena Lawrence say they want answers over BJ's death. (Image: ABC News)

Family says BJ was misdiagnosed and refused treatment (Image: Supplied by family)

30 August 2012 ABC News

An Indigenous Perth family grieving for the loss of their 28-year-old son is demanding to know if health authorities could have saved his life.

BJ Lawrence was suffering chest pains on July 29 and went to Charles Gairdner Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a chest infection and sent home with a course of antibiotics.

A few days later, Mr Lawrence was struggling to breathe and an ambulance was called to his Mirrabooka home.

His sister Philamena says her brother was complaining of debilitating chest pains.

"He was getting pains in his chest, tingling in his arms, he was literally telling us that he was having a heart attack," she said.

"He asked us to call an ambulance and we did."

She says once it arrived, the paramedics checked his heart rate.

Ms Lawrence does not believe they took her brother's concerns seriously.

"He was trying to explain to them that he was in pain but they just kept reassuring him he was ok," she said.

Battling to Breathe

Bradley Lawrence says his son told the crew he was battling to breathe.

He says the paramedic turned to BJ and told him, "mate, you're talking to me so you must be breathing."

"This is no way to talk to somebody who's looking for help," he said.

The paramedics suggested he may have a broken rib and told him to see his GP.

Mr Lawrence says his son went to bed and died later that night.

He says they want to know whether BJ was originally misdiagnosed and why he was not taken to hospital.

"I just want answers to why he wasn't taken, that's my real main reason," he said.

"We've got to wait for the Coroner's report; that could take eight weeks."

Claims rejected

The St John Ambulance service has rejected the Lawrence family claims.

General Manager Phil Lane says records show paramedics spent 20 minutes assessing Mr Lawrence who refused to go to hospital and signed a form to that effect.

"The ambulance arrived within nine minutes," he said.

"When the crew arrived, they examined and assessed the patient, noted the results of examination on the patient care record and advised Mr Lawrence that he needed to travel to hospital.

"Mr Lawrence did not heed that advice and he declined the transport."

Six hours later, two ambulances returned to the address following another phone call but Mr Lawrence was dead.

The North Metropolitan Health Service, which oversees the hospital, has extended its condolences to the family on the loss of their son.

In a statement, it says it is inappropriate to comment as the Coroner is investigating the death.

But, it says the hospital takes seriously allegations his treatment was affected because he was Aboriginal and it is committed to fair and equitable treatment for all patients.

Mr Lawrence has involved the Aboriginal Legal Service and informed the Human Rights Commissioner.

The Opposition's health spokesman, Roger Cook, wants a full and thorough investigation into Mr Lawrence's death.

"Have the Government's cuts to health played any role in putting these staff under pressure in not taking proper care of this young man?" he asked.

The Coroner is investigating Mr Lawrence's death.