16 April 2018

Before HM Assistant Coroner Dr Peter Harrowing
Sitting at Avon Coroner’s Court
Old Weston Road, Flax Bourton, Bristol BS48 1UL

Opens Monday 16 April 2018 at 10.00am
Expected to conclude 19 April 2018

Oliver McGowan lived with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and learning disabilities. In November 2016, he died aged 18, from hypoxic brain injury in Southmead Hospital, Bristol. This was following the administration of an anti-psychotic drug, Olanzapine, which the expert evidence suggests may have been a significant contributory factor to his death.

The inquest will explore whether or not Oliver ought to have been administered the drug Olanzapine, which his parents maintain they told doctors he was allergic to, and whether or not the doctors ignored the expressed wishes of both Oliver and his parents in doing so.

Oliver’s family describe him as having a can do attitude and being a natural leader. Oliver had been suffering from partial seizures for some time and had been in and out of hospital receiving treatment. Oliver’s condition worsened in October 2016 and he was admitted to Southmead Hospital.

The family hope the inquest will address their questions about how and under what circumstances Oliver died. 

Paula McGowan, Oliver’s mother said: Oliver brought so much happiness and fun to our lives; he always saw the best in everything and everyone, he taught all of us how to look at things differently. Oliver never failed to light up a room with the sound of his laughter. He wanted to make everybody happy and did his best to achieve that.

Oliver’s mild disabilities did not hold him back. He had a can do attitude and amazed everybody with his achievements. He played for the South West and North West Centre of Excellence cerebral palsy England Development football squads. He was a registered athlete with the Power of 10 and was ranked 3rd best in the country for disability 200 metres athletics. Oliver was a member of Team Bath and was being trained to potentially become a Para Olympian.

We hope that the inquest will provide a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to Oliver’s death.  Only then can there be any accountability and lessons learned to prevent a repeat of these circumstances leading to an avoidable death.

Deborah Coles, INQUEST Director said: “It is unacceptable that it is left to bereaved families to fight for the necessary investigation and scrutiny of premature and unexpected deaths among learning disabled people. Oliver McGowan’s parents’ requests for an Article 2 compliant inquest with a jury have been refused and they have not received any public funding for their legal representation. This is in contrast to North Bristol NHS Foundation Trust whose lawyers are paid for from the public purse. We hope that there is a thorough inquiry into this death and that it uncovers any systemic lessons in the hope of protecting lives in the future.”


For further information, interview requests and to note your interest, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or here

INQUEST has been supporting the family of Oliver McGowan since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Bellamy Forde of McMillan Williams Solicitors and Anthony Metzer of Goldsmiths Chambers.

The interested parties represented at the inquest are the family and North Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

  • The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Programme was commissioned by the NHS in 2015. Oliver’s death has been included as part of this review. This review programme was one of the key recommendations of CIPOLD.

  • People with learning disabilities have poorer health and shorter life expectancy than those without. The latest statistics from NHS digital found that males with learning disabilities had around a 14 year shorter life expectancy than the general population.

  • Epilepsy is more common in people with a learning disability than in the general population. About 1 in 3 people (32%) who have a mild to moderate learning disability also have epilepsy. The more severe the learning disability, the more likely that the person will also have epilepsy. (Epilepsy society)
  • 42% of deaths of learning disabled people are considered to be premature, and over a quarter are amenable to better-quality healthcare, found the first largescale inquiry of its kind published in 2013, The report of the Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CIPOLD).