Autopsy delay at Wagga Base Hospital leaves family searching for answers

A grieving wife has been left in the lurch waiting more than six weeks for an autopsy after her husband’s shock death at Wagga Base Hospital. 

Ardlethan’s Stephen Ross, a truck driver and family man, died on March 5 but his family has been left waiting for closure with no death certificate and no answers.

The 57-year-old fell ill in November and was tested for cancer, which returned a negative result. 

Mr Ross’ wife, Donna, said doctors told the family her husband had taken a turn for the worse and his liver was failing after he was admitted to hospital in February. 

His sudden death was a shock to the family, who immediately requested an autopsy.  

“We were supposed to pick up his ashes last Thursday when we got a phone call saying the autopsy hadn’t happened and the hospital was still chasing up the paperwork,” Donna said. 

“It was so sudden – I need some explanation as to why this has happened.

“It’s like they’ve forgotten him.” 

Wagga Base Hospital director Helen Cooper said there was a delay in conducting the autopsy due a misunderstanding in regards to the consent form paperwork required for it to proceed. 

“Wagga Base Hospital extends sincere condolences to the patient’s family for this loss,” she said. 

“A non-coronial post mortem (autopsy) was requested by the family and supported by the treating doctor. 

“We are in contact with the family to ensure their wishes are met as soon as possible.” 

The Ross family said it is now concerned about the accuracy of the autopsy results given the delay. 

“That’s one of a few questions going through my mind, whether his body would be as fresh,” Donna said. 

“I just assumed as soon as he passed away he would be taken.” 

Stephen’s brother, Chris Ross, said the ordeal has been “terrible” to deal with after the death of his brother, with no chance of a funeral or any form of closure. 

“Stephen was always the first there to help anyone that needed help,” Chris said. 

“We didn’t go a day without talking to each other and I can just imagine what he’d be thinking now. 

Chris said the family would never forget how Stephen had “fallen through the system”. 

“I understand people at the hospital are under pressure but if that's the case something should be done about it,” he said. 

“I would hope when I die that it’s all over and people can get on with their lives.

“We’ve now had an apology but we have no answers.”