Weeks, James

Weeks, James              1883 August 4th

An inquest was held at the Council Chamber on Saturday afternoon by the City Coroner (Mr G Smith) and a jury (of whom Mr J Gillingham was foreman), on the body of James Weeks, a child of three years, the son of Charles Weeks, laborer, of Bedwin-street.

The child died in the early hours of the morning. The evidence was simple – it was a case of death from natural causes, but an inquest was necessary because, as the Coroner stated, Dr Gordon refused to give a certificate, expressing the opinion that there had been parental neglect in not sending for a doctor earlier. The child had been evidently weakly from birth, and the body showed signs of considerable emaciation.

The first witness called was Charles Weeks, who prefaced his evidence with the statement that he was a widower, his wife having died at the birth of this child. The child, he then continued, had not been healthy since his birth. He had been not worse than usual until the previous day when – on account of getting worse – he sent for Dr Gordon. He had given the child powders at times of teething, they having been recommended by elderly women. For three or four months after the mother died the child had been out at nurse; since having had the little fellow at home he had treated him with every care, lately feeding him on eggs and milk. He had not had medical advice for the child of late, but two years ago – when appearing to be suffering from consumption, the complaint of his mother – he called in Dr Gordon.

The next witness was Annie Weeks, daughter of the last witness. She stated that the child had never been well from birth, the state of his health varying. The little fellow seemed to suffer principally from tightness of the chest. On Friday he seemed to be faint, and she took him into the back yard in the hope that he would recover in the open air. He had had nothing that she knew of detrimental that day. For breakfast he had an egg and some bread and butter, and later on he had two tablespoonsful of port wine. At all times, indeed, he had had as much food as he could eat, and at times eat very heartily. At about 7 o’clock he got worse, and then Dr Gordon was sent for.

In reply to a juror, the witness explained that the family in all numbered eight, and that they all slept in two bedrooms.

Mrs Elizabeth Payne, a neighbour of Weeks’, deposed that at about 2.30 on Friday afternoon she was sent for to come to the house of Weeks. On going in she at once recommended that medical advice should be obtained for the child. The girl, however, hesitated, as they did not belong to the Dispensary. Witness told her that the child was dying; and eventually Dr Gordon was sent for. At about 4.0 in the morning the child died. Before the arrival of Dr Gordon, as the child coughed vehemently, some cough mixture was administered. As to the general treatment of the child witness said she believed he had been well cared for. He had always appeared to have sufficient to eat, and at times eat very ravenously.

Dr Gordon stated that when he saw the boy he was in a dying state. He was breathing very heavily. He was evidently very much emaciated. The child seemed as if he had been wasting for a very long time. The chest was very protracted, and it was probable that lung disease was the cause of death. He remembered attending the mother of the child, and he knew that she died from heart disease. He had no reason to think that the child had been treated badly, but he certainly thought that medical advice should have been obtained a year and a half or so ago.

The jury found a verdict of “Death from Natural Causes,” but unanimously endorsed the view of Dr Gordon that medical advice ought to have been obtained much earlier.

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