Mum’s body left in mortuary freezer at hospital for six weeks as staff forgot about her

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Charlene McGregor was admitted to hospital for treatment to a cyst behind her ear and was put on antibiotics and there were plans to remove a cyst behind her ear

Charlene McGregor
Charlene McGregor

A mum’s body was left in a mortuary freezer for six weeks as staff forgot about her.

Police ordered toxicology tests which found Charlene McGregor had died of a methadone overdose but her family say they are baffled about how this happened and the hospital has offered no explanation.

Her body had been in the freezer for so long, a post-mortem examination into her unexpected hospital death was found to be inconclusive.

Charlene, 41, was admitted to hospital for treatment to a cyst behind her ear and was put on antibiotics and there were plans to remove the cyst.

But on March 12 at 6am she was dead in her hospital bed.

NHS Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow
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Staff told her family she would need a post-mortem but it may take a bit longer than normal because of Covid.

Her brother William said the mum of four was a drug user and was on a methadone programme.

He told the Daily Record : “She didn’t have the best life but had been going with the same guy for 10 years and was beginning to turn her life around.

“We didn’t have much to do with her because of her drug issues but she was on a methadone programme and her prescription had been reduced. She genuinely seemed to want to take steps away from drugs.

“But she shouldn’t have died the way she did and we still don’t know why it happened.

“The night before she passed away she had been asking the nurses to give her anything to help her sleep. That was at about 2am. By 6am, she was dead.”

Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie called the lengthy wait “unacceptable and shocking”
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William from Drumoyne, Glasgow added: “She was obviously given methadone in the early hours because it was a very quick death.”

The family knew they would have to wait a bit longer than normal for post-mortem results but when they had heard nothing after six weeks, they contacted the hospital.

William said: “The hospital then contacted the family and said they needed to conduct an emergency family meeting.

“My partner and my mum went to it and were told, ‘We can’t apologise enough’ that she was still in the mortuary and hadn’t been sent for a post-mortem.

“They said they forgot about her. Right away, the alarm bells started.

“They said because she had been lying there in a freezer for six weeks the post-mortem could come back inconclusive. And that’s exactly what happened.

“I can’t help wondering if we hadn’t contacted them would my sister still be lying there?

“And did they deliberately leave her there for six weeks because they knew someone had made a mistake and if she was in the freezer that long a post-mortem wouldn’t find it?

“I think they thought because my sister was a junkie the family wouldn’t take things further. But she didn’t deserve that.”

It took two months before the family were able to have a funeral because of the post-mortem delay and waiting for toxicology reports.

William added: “When toxicology came back, it said the cause of death was methadone overdose.

“We were told the level of methadone in her system would have killed anyone. But where did she get it? Did someone prescribe too much by mistake? We want answers but no-one is giving us any.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie called for a “full investigation” and demanded an inquiry into how Charlene overdosed while under hospital care.

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde last night confirmed a Significant Adverse Event Review was currently underway into the circumstances of Charlene’s death.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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