Obese mother choked to death from over-eating after bypass

Obese mother choked to death on food that couldn’t fit into her stomach

  • Dianne Cooper-Clarke told her family she had undergone surgery for cancer when she had a gastric bypass
  • She managed to eat less for around a year after the surgery
  • A backlog of food had built all the way to the throat

An obese mother who carried on eating too much after gastric bypass surgery suffocated on food which couldn’t fit into her stomach, an inquest heard.

Dianne Bernadette Cooper-Clarke, 64, died after food clogged her throat and stopped her from breathing. She had undergone gastric bypass surgery but kept it secret from her family and started eating too much after the operation.

Her oesophagus swelled to the size of a normal stomach and food built up all the way to her throat, causing her to suffocate, an inquest in Truro, Cornwall, heard. She was found dead in her home in Barripper, a village in west Cornwall, on December 9 last year.

Pathologist Hugh Jones, from the Royal Cornwall Hospital, carried out a post-mortem examination and said a back-log of food had stopped her breathing. ‘The tube that goes from the mouth to the stomach was swollen and food had built up all the way to the throat’ he said. ‘There was too much food in there. Doctors found no evidence of cancer and experts confirmed the gastric operation was carried out properly.

‘A gastric pouch reduces the stomach. People get round this by making their oesophagus bigger. That’s where the food was staying. I think they eat a tiny bit and think it goes somewhere, so they’ll have a little bit more, and it’s a longstanding thing.

‘Your oesophagus is the size of a little finger, but hers was as big as her stomach. I considered the food had blocked off her breathing and that was the cause of death.’ Gastric bypass surgery reduces the stomach to a small pouch the size of a thumb.

Originally from Trinidad in the West Indies, Mrs Cooper-Clarke told her family that she had undergone surgery for cancer in March 2010 when she had in fact had a gastric bypass to reduce the size of her stomach.

She told her son Yvan Clarke that she had surgery on her legs – but he told the inquest that ‘deep down’ he knew this was not the case. ‘For at least a year she was eating less,’ he said. ‘Throughout that time I thought she was very closely monitoring it.’

The inquest heard that the gastric bypass had a ‘massive impact’ on her weight and had reduced her BMI and blood pressure. Mrs Cooper-Clarke’s GP, Dr Hugh Fairlie, said in a statement that she was the fittest she had ever been before her death and was due to travel to Trinidad for three months. He said: ‘By November she was as fit as I had seen her apart from the depression.’

In a narrative verdict, deputy coroner Andrew Cox said: ‘People do not stick to it [eating less] and this is tragically what happens. ‘This is not a natural cause of death. It is not an accident because she chose to eat. She died of a known complication of an elective surgical procedure of a gastric bypass.’


Originally published by The Daily Mail, 14 June 2012