Drunk­en­ness claims seen as non­sense


The or­gan­iser of a rugby tour­na­ment has rub­bished a clin­i­cal sug­ges­tion an Ar­row­town man drank 24 beers within two hours be­fore col­laps­ing at a Queen­stown event. Alex Cot­tier col­lapsed be­cause of an ar­te­ri­ove­nous mal­for­ma­tion – a po­ten­tially lethal con­gen­i­tal con­di­tion that caused acute bleed­ing in the right frontal lobe of his brain while he watched the tour­na­ment on Jan­uary 8. His mother, Vanessa, al­leged her son’s med­i­cal treat­ment was dras­ti­cally de­layed be­cause event paramedics, and later, Queen­stown Lakes Dis­trict Hospi­tal staff, as­sumed he was par­a­lyt­i­cally drunk. A May 1 ar­ti­cle out­lin­ing Mrs Cot­tier’s con­cerns kicked off a South­ern Dis­trict Health Board clin­i­cal re­view of Alex Cot­tier’s treat­ment. The board re­leased the re­view to Mrs Cot­tier this week and opens on an ini­tial med­i­cal as­sess­ment that her son ‘‘ had drunk a 24-pack of beer over the pre­ced­ing two hours’’ be­fore his col­lapse. How­ever, Sev­ens with Al­ti­tude chair­man Clark Frew said strict con­di­tions im­posed on al­co­hol con­sump­tion at the event made such a sit­u­a­tion im­pos­si­ble. ‘‘No-one can take their own al­co­hol into the event and li­cence man­agers at the beer tents ab­so­lutely will not serve any­one who is in­tox­i­cated – no way and not at all,’’ he said. The re­view out­lined Mr Cot­tier’s treat­ment over the Sun­day and Mon­day, Jan­uary 8-9, when he was trans­ferred to In­ver­cargill’s South­land Hospi­tal, then Dunedin Hospi­tal for ur­gent neu­ro­surgery. It ac­knowl­edged the Cot­tier fam­ily’s con­cerns that al­co­hol was as­sumed as a cause of his con­di­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion was poor and treat­ment of ‘‘fam­ily by staff was in­ap­pro­pri­ate’’. At a 10pm shift change at Lakes Dis­trict Hospi­tal on Sun­day night, Mr Cot­tier’s case was dis­cussed and his ‘‘care handed over to the in­com­ing doc­tor’’, the re­view states. ‘‘About this time Dunedin in­ten­sive care were again con­tacted to re­quest re­trieval, but felt it wasn’t jus­ti­fied at that time, and that South­land Hospi­tal would be a bet­ter des­ti­na­tion given the his­tory of pre­sumed al­co­hol in­tox­i­ca­tion.’’ Be­fore the re­view, Mrs Cot­tier main­tained that by this time her son was over­due for a di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment – which did not be­gin un­til he ar­rived at South­land Hospi­tal at 6.30pm on Mon­day. Af­ter read­ing the re­view her stance had not changed and she was mys­ti­fied the re­view had ‘‘clung to a baf­fling sup­po­si­tion’’ her son, who had never been a heavy drinker, could have drunk 24 cans or bot­tles of beer in only two hours. ‘‘Read­ing the re­view for the first time was ab­so­lutely the first time I had heard any men­tion of the sup­posed fact that Alex had drunk 24 beers in the two hours lead­ing up to his col­lapse – let alone at any time on that day. I just thought ‘you’ve got to be jok­ing’.’’ Mr Cot­tier main­tains he drunk three beers over the whole day on Sun­day. When ask­ing if the ini­tial di­ag­no­sis was ap­pro­pri­ate, the re­view men­tioned there were ‘‘mixed re­ports’’ on how much beer he had con­sumed and whether or not he lost con­scious­ness. The re­view says that the ap­proach of ‘‘sup­port­ive ther­apy for al­co­hol in­tox­i­ca­tion’’ was rea­son­able. Mr Cot­tier was booked for a trans­fer to South­land Hospi­tal that night but it was halted be­cause of a per­ceived im­prove­ment in his con­di­tion. ‘‘They said Alex opened his eyes and said some­thing, when he never opened his eyes by him­self un­til he was taken out of a coma and spent al­most two weeks in Dunedin’s High De­pen­dency Unit,’’ Mrs Cot­tier said. The re­view states that Lakes Dis­trict Hospi­tal has no abil­ity to per­form a blood al­co­hol level test. Other fac­tors con­tribut­ing to a de­lay in Mr Cot­tier’s treat­ment ‘‘in­clude the high num­ber of in­tox­i­cated pa­tients seen, and the rar­ity of a bleed­ing AVM [ar­te­ri­ove­nous mal­for­ma­tion]’’.


De­nied: Alex Cot­tier and his­mumVanessa in their Ar­row­town home.

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