Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
Rule 11

I, Robert Pearce, Coroner, having investigated the death of

Robert Claude Stewart



(a) The identity of the deceased is Robert Claude Stewart born 1 October 1928.

(b) The cause of Mr Stewart’s death is multiple organ failure due to sepsis following a surgical procedure for colon cancer.

(c) Mr Stewart died at 2.46pm on 4 June 2011 at the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie, Tasmania.

(d) No other person contributed to the cause of his death.


1. Robert Claude Stewart died on 4 June 2011 aged 82.

2. On 24 May 2011 he was admitted to the North West Regional Hospital for surgery for colon cancer.  The surgery to remove part of his bowel was undertaken on 26 May 2011 by Dr Sven Anders.  Mr Stewart was cared for during his recovery in the surgical ward at the hospital.

3. On Thursday 2 June 2011 Mr Stewart started to feel abdominal discomfort which led to increased pain the following day.  He was reviewed by a consultant in the intensive care unit and then at about 10.15am on 3 June 2011 by Dr Anders.  A CT scan disclosed a probable leak of gastrointestinal contents into the abdominal cavity.  Further surgery was undertaken which confirmed the leak, the site of which was unclear but which did not appear to the surgeon to be from the site joining the colon.

4. Mr Stewart was returned to the ICU ward after the surgery but became critically unwell with multiple organ failure affecting his kidneys, heart and lungs.  His health continued to deteriorate and he died on 4 June 2011.

The coronial investigation

5. A post mortem examination conducted by Dr Lawrence revealed faecal peritonitis.  The coronial investigation included examination of the medical records of the North West Regional Hospital by the State Forensic Pathologist and a research nurse engaged by the coroner as well as a review of the case by those persons and another senior pathologist with the coroner.  The cause of Mr Stewart’s death was confirmed to be as I have described.

6. I have decided not to hold in inquest into Mr Stewart’s death.  The investigation has sufficiently disclosed the identity of the deceased person, the time, place, the relevant circumstances concerning his death and the particulars needed to register his death under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.  No other person contributed to Mr Stewart’s death.  I do not consider that an inquest is likely to elicit any further information concerning the issues that I am required to determine.

Comments and recommendations

7. I see no need to make any further comment or recommendation.

I convey my sincere condolences to Mr Stewart’s family.

DATED: 9 May 2012 at Launceston in Tasmania


Robert Pearce