Teenager with severe disabilities died after choking on latex glove, coronial inquest hears

The mother of a severely disabled teenager who died at an Adelaide care facility after swallowing a latex glove has told a coronial inquest she had warned carers that her daughter was at risk of putting things in her mouth.

Key points:

  • Sophia Nisco was left unattended at her Adelaide care facility
  • She put a latex glove in her mouth and was later found unresponsive
  • An inquest has heard two staff members were looking after four children at the time

Nella Nisco told the South Australian Coroner's Court staff at the disAbility Living care facility had been told her daughter, Sophia Nisco, should not be left unattended as she constantly put things in her mouth, and was at risk of choking on them.

The court heard Sophia, 16, died at the respite care facility in the eastern Adelaide suburb of Felixstow after being found alone in the bathroom with a latex medical glove lodged in her throat in February 2017.

Sophia attended the facility most fortnights to give her family a break from her high-care needs.

Ms Nisco said she made it clear Sophia could not be left on her own outside her wheelchair, as without physical restraint she was very fast and liked to explore the world around her by putting things in her mouth.

"Sophia has a fascination with gloves and balloons, and she would try and take gloves off carers," she told the court.

"At home there were many incidences, and at school.

"Staff knew that she was fast, and they knew she was at risk."

Daughter had multiple disabilities

The court heard Sophia suffered from cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD and hearing and visual impairments.

Counsel assisting the coroner Kathryn Waite told the court only two staff members were looking after four disabled children at the time of the incident, including another child requiring one-on-one care.

Ms Waite said a witness who worked at the centre corroborated to police that staff knew Sophia was not to be left unattended when not in her wheelchair.

The court saw notes from a staff meeting where Ms Nisco said she raised the issue in the month before her daughter's death.

She said she believed funding for extra care hours at the facility were for one-on-one time, despite that not being spelled out in care plan documents provided to the court.

Others problems with respite care

Ms Nisco said there had been other issues with care at the respite facility, including her discovery that there were no shower chairs at the facility.

"I was shocked … I thought she was being showered in a shower chair, not on the floor," she told.

Sign for SA Coroners Court Photo: The coronial inquest will continue this week. (ABC News)


On another occasion, Ms Nisco said the centre took Sophia to a school she had not attended for a year.

"Sophia no longer has a voice, I am her voice. I'm hoping for justice and I hope this never happens to a parent with a vulnerable child," she said.

"The [royal commission into disability services] can't come fast enough."

Ms Waite also questioned whether extra NDIS funding had been received by the facility, which Ms Nisco said she believed had begun in the month before her death.

Ms Waite said it would be up to the inquest to decide whether the facility had received adequate funding for the needs of those in its care.

The inquest continues.

from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-20/i...