Stillbirth tragedy: couple believe osteopath treatment killed unborn baby

Josh Garry and Vicky Griffiths are tormented every day because they believe the death of their son, Ryker, could have been avoided. Photo / Alex Burton

A couple who believe osteopathic treatment killed their unborn baby has been fighting government agencies for six years and it has left them confused and helpless.

Top experts say Auckland’s parents may be right, but five investigations by New Zealand’s health watchdog, the Health and Disability Commission (HDC) and ACC ( Accident Compensation Corporation) failed to provide clear answers.

Meanwhile, parents Josh Garry and Vicky Griffiths told the Herald on Sunday that they feel tormented every day because they believe with all their hearts that the death of their son, Ryker, could have been avoided.

They were frustrated by government agencies for failing to protect other pregnant women from “dangerous” osteopathic treatment, Garry said.

“We want this fight to end and a chance to move on to learn more about life without that cloud above us, but I’m not the type of person to stop to get there, it’s too important for everyone’s sake to let it go. I could I don’t live with myself if it happened to someone else, “Garry said.

Baby Ryker Izac Phillip Garry is set to celebrate his seventh birthday next year with his 4-year-old brother Benji and loving parents. Izac was Garry’s name before he was adopted and Phillip is the name of Griffiths father.

“Our mental well-being has been achieved six times on several occasions, I look forward to the day when I can lift my head and tell Ryker that he has given us strength and conviction,” said Garry.

Their grief began on February 25, 2015. It was the day Griffiths, then 30 weeks pregnant, received osteopathic treatment in Auckland after being referred to the right hip sciatica ward.

As reported in HDC tapes viewed by the Herald on Sunday, the osteopath asked Griffiths if she had any other pregnancy-related symptoms, which she said had heartburn. In response, the osteopath pushed his abdomen and diaphragm with his fingers and thumbs, according to records.

Garry said the love of his life suffered during this treatment, although he did not show it, and found it very intrusive.

“He diagnosed a tight colon that required manipulative stretching,” the HDC report said.

Two days later, a pre-booked growth scan showed Ryker’s heart was no longer beating. It was devastating because just two days before the osteopath’s treatment, another scan showed he was in good health, Garry said.

Griffiths was forced to give birth to her dead baby on March 1.

A source told the Herald on Sunday that she understands the osteopath – who cannot be named for legal reasons – has specialized in sports and left his job and the country a few months after the couple died.

Four months after the birth, the couple met with Dr Tony Baird, then Auckland City Hospital Maternity Manager, to determine, review and publish the post-mortem findings.

Attorney Paul Barrowclough was present that day and recorded the minutes of that meeting, which The Herald on Sunday saw.

It was confirmed by Baird that the cause of Ryker’s death was the anterior placental abruption which he said was also referred to as “fortuitous antepartum hemorrhage,” according to the minutes.

When Barrowclough pushed, Baird said trauma such as treatment by an osteopath could not be ruled out as a cause of the detachment, according to the minutes.

The couple then filed a complaint with the HDC, urging the agency to investigate their case. After several months, HDC found “no evidence that the treatment provided to [Griffiths] through [the osteopath] caused placental abruption “.

The documents showed that HDC only requested a response from the osteopath himself and an independent general practitioner who advised him on the causes of the placental abruption. In that first investigation, HDC did not approach a specialist with more in-depth knowledge of the disease or anyone else, documents showed.

The osteopath defended his treatment with HDC saying he believed it would have taken a lot of force to loosen or damage a placenta, such as a car accident, a severe blow, or a fall to the abdomen.

“He has a hard time understanding how a placental abruption would have happened as a result of his treatment, and unfortunately thinks it’s a coincidence that you lost,” the HDC report said of the osteopath.

He also said in the report: “every patient has the right to ask questions, to stop treatment or to raise concerns during the consultation, which he specifies before treatment”.

Garry said he was angry because the link between the osteopathic treatment and his son’s death still could not be ruled out, and he wanted to make sure changes were made to the practice to ensure even if the risk was low, no one else must have experienced the grief that their family had.

They weren’t getting answers and sought a second opinion from Southland obstetrician Dr Norman MacLean, Garry said.

MacLean not only echoed Baird’s comments that osteopathic treatment was a possible cause of death, but also said in an email, seen by the Herald on Sunday: “That would be my opinion as a specialist obstetrician. experienced that an osteopath should not examine the abdomen of a mother in advanced pregnancy; it is totally inappropriate and should be outside their scope of practice. The osteopath has tried to relinquish responsibility for the complication, but this is not his role.

The HDC reopened the case but, Garry said, it was suddenly abandoned after a heated phone call between him and an HDC assessor named Joshua Allum.

The Herald on Sunday listened to a recording of that call and read an internal complaint from Allum to his superiors, delivered to Garry under the Official Information Act.

Allum claimed that Garry told him that “[Allum and HDC] had sided with a murderer, “but at no point in the recording did Garry say that, according to the tapes.

Garry said at one point that he knew it wasn’t Allum’s fault and that he wasn’t looking to blame anyone, his family just wanted answers.

After Garry found out about the complaint against him, he raised it with another HDC staff member. He understands that the documented transcript of the phone call has been corrected by HDC but is not sure if further action has been taken.

“They made me feel worthless. I was treated like a case number, not a person. I’m a father grieving the death of my son and desperate to find answers, that’s all “Garry said.

The Herald on Sunday asked HDC about it and they did not respond directly.

Instead, a spokesperson said: ‘HDC has carefully reviewed this case for several years, including reviewing our initial findings and seeking additional independent advice to determine that treatment was delivered with care and skill. reasonable and in a manner consistent with professional and other standards. relevant standards. “

The agency expressed condolences to the family for their tragic loss and regretted that this was not the outcome they hoped for, the spokesperson said.

The ACC also investigated the case on two occasions. In the second review, ACC spoke with two independent osteopaths, its own obstetrician gynecologist and Jane Zuccolo, a perinatal pathologist.

Years after the stillbirth, Zuccolo suggested the postmortem results were inaccurate. In the results published in March 2021, “I cannot find anything to persuade myself with confidence in the pathology that this baby died of a placental abruption / significant acute retroplacental hemorrhage.”

“We observed a marginal hemorrhage which had spread under the
deciduous for a short distance with localized marginal compression of the placenta
parenchyma. I can’t say if this was enough to cause fetal death. “

The Herald asked ACC on Sunday why MacLean and Baird’s advice was not sought or included in its official reports and whether osteopathic treatment could be ruled out as a cause of death. They couldn’t respond directly.

Instead, a spokesperson said: “The ACC can only cover a treatment injury when a physical injury has been caused by the treatment. In this case, we sought external clinical advice from experts. in areas relevant to help inform our decision and advice. did not support the osteopathic treatment as having caused the placental abruption. As such, we could not accept the coverage.

“The family chose to have this decision independently reviewed, and our refusal decision was upheld. However, we can always reconsider a grievance decision based on new medical information. If the family has information that they do. believes should be taken into account, we encourage him to enter touch. “

Garry said: “I hope that one day Ryker looks down on his mum and daddy and knows they never gave up on him, and because of him and because of that, he alone created a conversation that has inspired change for the better for so many people. “

About Antoine L. Cassell

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