Doctor, 49, faces axe after she missed deadly disease that killed boy

Doctor, 49, faces axe after she missed deadly disease that killed boy

October 21, 2019

Doctor, 49, faces being stuck off after she missed deadly Addison’s disease that killed boy, 12, who could have survived had condition been treated

  • Dr Joanne Rudling failed to notice 12-year-old Ryan Morse’s Addison’s disease
  • The rare condition blackened Ryan’s skin and saw his weight slide to four stone 
  • An inquest has ruled that Ryan could have been saved with medical treatment
  • Dr Rudling now faces a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in Manchester next month

Dr Joanne Rudling, 49, will face a tribunal for allegedly failing to spot a schoolboy’s deadly disease

A doctor faces being struck off for allegedly dismissing a schoolboy’s blackening genitals as a common virus rather than spotting the rare condition which killed him only hours later. 

Dr Joanne Rudling, 49, failed to notice 12-year-old Ryan Morse’s deadly Addison’s disease which darkened his skin and saw his weight dramatically drop to just four stone.

The child’s stained complexion and scrawny physique was noticed by his classmates – who nicknamed him ‘Teabag’ – and by school staff who described him as ‘thin, grey and gaunt’.

But medics at Abernant GP Surgery in Abertillery, south Wales, did not realise the seriousness of these symptoms.

And after they failed to give Ryan potentially life-saving treatment, he died at home on the settee on December 8.

Although a 2016 trial cleared Dr Rudling – and her colleague Dr Lindsey Thomas – of manslaughter by gross negligence, she now faces being banned from practising after an inquest ruled Ryan’s death could have been prevented.

Ryan Morse, 12, died in December 2012 from Addison’s disease, which blackened his genitals and saw him drop to just four stone

The doctor, from Cardiff, will next month appear at a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service panel in Manchester. 

The allegation is that, between November and December 2012, she ‘failed to provide adequate clinical care’ to Ryan.

And she is also accused of ‘dishonestly’ making a retrospective entry in the boy’s medical records on December 10, 2012.

The tribunal will also look at whether the doctor dishonestly provided Gwent Police with ‘untrue information.’

During the trial, Cardiff Crown Court heard Ryan’s heartbroken mother Carol Morse, 57, had her concerns shrugged off by medics who only prescribed paracetamol. 

In the summer of 2012, Ryan (pictured before the illness), from Brynithel, Blaenau Gwent, complained of a pounding headache, sore throat and aching muscles. But his mother claims this was ignored by doctors

In the summer of 2012, Ryan, from Brynithel, Blaenau Gwent, complained of a pounding headache, sore throat and aching muscles. 

Other symptoms which came and went over the period included projectile vomiting, difficulty walking and a rash. 

A welfare officer at his school, who was asked to look into his regular absences in the months leading up to his death, noted he looked ‘thin, grey and gaunt’ during a school meeting with his mother.

The teacher said: ‘I noticed that his skin was dark. He looked Indian or Pakistani in race. There wasn’t much of him.’ 

A subsequent inquest into the boy’s death in September 2017 heard Dr Rudling said Ryan’s darkening skin was a sign of puberty – a claim she denied.


Addison’s disease is a condition in which the body does not make enough of the hormone cortisol.

When the body’s cortisol levels drop too low, this can cause a range of symptoms.

These include weakness, dizziness, fatigue and abdominal pain.

A very low cortisol level can be life-threatening.

This is because cortisol is vital as it helps regulate blood pressure and the immune system and it helps the body respond to stress.

Addison’s disease is treated with hormone replacement tablets.

It is thought about 8,000 people in the UK have the illness and most cases first develop in people aged between 30 and 50.

About 70 per cent of cases are thought to be caused by an autoimmune disease but it can also be triggered by TB.


But he was actually suffering with Addison’s disease – a rare condition that causes the adrenal glands in the kidneys stop functioning.

The inquest in Newport, South Wales, heard Ryan’s death ‘could have been prevented’ as a narrative conclusion was returned. 

Summing up the case, coroner David Bowen said Ryan had been a ‘fit and well young boy’ before becoming ill in July 2012, with various symptoms including a change in the pigmentation of his skin. 

Mr Bowen said Mrs Morse woke at around 4am on December 8 2012 to find her son was not breathing and tried to administer CPR.

He said: ‘The paramedics arrived and confirmed her worst fear that Ryan had died,’ he said.

‘The subsequent post-mortem found he died from Addison’s disease. This is a rare disease and one that GPs will not normally encounter.

‘Tragically if the condition was diagnosed its fatal outcome could have been prevented.

‘Unfortunately neither doctor nor parent thought it necessary to refer Ryan to hospital where the true nature of illness may have been diagnosed.’

Mr Bowen said Ryan’s death was ‘due to natural causes where the opportunity to administer lifesaving treatment was missed’.

The tribunal will take place between November 4 and 22. 

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