8 Aug 2022

Exclusive: Medics treated arrested man ‘like he was pretending’ before seizure death, says family

Social Affairs Editor and Presenter

The family of a man who died after suffering multiple seizures while under arrest have accused medical staff of treating him like “he was pretending”.  


The family of a man who died after suffering multiple seizures while under arrest have accused medical staff of treating him like “he was pretending”.

Raphael Gill, 29, was arrested for drug offences in November 2019, and died in hospital after suffering six seizures.

His family say he was “treated like a nobody”, and medics did not react quickly enough to a life-threatening situation.

The London Ambulance Service told Channel 4 News that it was “sorry they [Mr Gill’s family] feel parts of his care could have been handled more sensitively” and promised to implement the coroner’s recommendations.

Lewisham and Greenwich Hospital Trust said they had conducted an investigation which was shared with the family.

History of seizures

Mr Gill was stopped for speeding and subsequently arrested for drug offences before suffering three seizures in the back of a police car on 1 November 2019.

His final hours were captured on police bodycam video.

Police requested an ambulance and asked “multiple times” where it was, according to official documents, and when paramedics did arrive, Mr Gill, who had a history of seizures, was not assessed as a medical emergency.

Mr Gill later had a fourth seizure in the back of the ambulance and was only seen by a doctor after his fifth seizure on the floor of the Accident and Emergency waiting room in Lewisham Hospital – 96 minutes after he first arrived.

“I feel like I am going to die,” the father-of-two was recorded saying moments before suffering a sixth and final seizure. He died shortly afterwards.

‘Inverted commas’ gesture

His mother and former partner told Channel 4 News the bodycam footage was “awful to watch” and showed “letdowns from beginning to end”.

They cite a specific moment in the footage which they say shows a paramedic appearing to question whether the seizures were genuine by using an “inverted commas’” gesture with his hands to describe Mr Gill’s condition during a conversation with a colleague. The paramedic in question strongly denies this accusation, insisting he was tucking in his shirt.

A coroner recently found Mr Gill’s arrest “unduly influenced the assessment of urgency” by paramedics.

‘Awful to see’

Mr Gill’s mother Karen Bond told Channel 4 News: “When it is your child and he is in that position, you just think people are not seeing his pain and I felt like no-one reacted quick enough to say: this is urgent, this could be a life-threatening situation.”

She also alleged paramedics “looked at him like a young Black boy” who had just been arrested and this “scarred their thoughts about how to treat him”.

Senior figures at London Ambulance Service have offered to meet the family in person to discuss any specific concerns, but a spokesperson said it was important to note “there was no finding of racism or racist behaviour at the inquest”.

Emily Anning, the mother of Mr Gill’s young son, said Mr Gill was treated “like a nobody”.

“It was just awful to see,” she said.

“To speak how they did about him, thinking he was pretending to have seizures and even if they thought he was lying, they should have treated him as if he wasn’t – that is their job and that is what they are trained to do and they didn’t.”

Mr Gill’s cause of death was listed as multiple seizures and cocaine taken alongside prescription medication. However, an inquest jury expressed concerns over the impact of delays from the outset on Mr Gill’s chances of survival.

In May, a Prevention of Future Deaths report, issued by Coroner Jonathan Landau, identified several “matters of concern” including a failure to transfer Mr Gill to hospital under blue lights and sirens.

The report also raised concerns that the most senior clinician drove the ambulance and was not on hand to provide treatment which a colleague was “unqualified to provide”, and also flagged concerns about the 96-minute stay in the hospital waiting room before being seen by a doctor.

Mr Landau concluded: “Whilst it was reasonable for the London Ambulance Service staff to suspect a link between the arrest and seizures, the arrest unduly influenced the assessment of urgency.”

‘Sincerest condolences’

Lewisham Hospital and London Ambulance Service have pledged to learn lessons from Raphael Gill’s case, promising improvements to handover procedures and the issuing of fresh clinical guidance.

Dr Fenella Wrigley, chief medical officer at London Ambulance Service, expressed “sincerest condolences” to Mr Gill’s family, adding she was sorry if they felt parts of his care could have been handled more sensitively.

She said: “We have carefully considered all of the coroner’s recommendations following the inquest into Mr Gill’s death. As a result, we are reviewing and re-issuing several pieces of clinical guidance for our staff, and we have shared details of the actions we are taking with the coroner and Mr Gill’s family.”

“While we acknowledge the concerns raised by Mr Gill’s family and would welcome the opportunity to look into these concerns further, it is important to note that there was no finding of racism or racist behaviour by the inquest into Mr Gill’s death.”

A spokesperson for Lewisham and Greenwich Hospital Trust said: “We would like to offer the family our sincere condolences for the tragic loss of their son Raphael. We have carried out a full investigation, which we have shared with his family.”

Written by Jamie Roberton.