Vic teen died from TB 'in severest form'

·3-min read

A Victorian coroner has finally been able to investigate the death of a teenage boy in Melbourne from a case of tuberculosis in its severest form.

Mohamed Mussa spent more than a month on life support in the Royal Children's Hospital before dying from the disease, aged 15, in September 2005.

His tuberculosis was advanced to such a state only seen in developing countries, Senior Constable Premala Thevar told the Victorian Coroners Court on Tuesday.

Investigating nearly 16 years after the teen's death, coroner Phil Byrne said there had been delays as a result of a homicide investigation into the teen's father, Mahamoud Awali, who watched the hearing online.

Morris O'Dell, a doctor with the coroners office, met with homicide detectives in November 2005 and concluded after reviewing the teen's medical files that it appeared to be a severe case of neglect.

The homicide investigation remains open.

The court heard Mohamed's younger brother, then 13, called an ambulance for help in July 2005 reporting that his brother was suffering dizziness, vomiting, extreme weight loss, ulcers on his body and a strong odour.

He was taken to Northern Hospital where doctors initially believed Mohamed was suffering from acute anorexia. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis after being transferred to the RCH.

Mohamed spent 39 days on life support. During that period the hospital reported difficulties in getting Mr Awali's consent for urgent medical treatment and having to coax him into visiting his son.

The then-Department of Health and Human Services took the decision-making powers away from Mr Awali in late August 2005.

They had been notified about the family six times in the previous five years, including about concerns Mr Awali would leave his sons in the care of a woman and disappear for periods of time without providing financial support.

The two boys had moved to Melbourne with their father from Somalia in 1998, while their mother and three younger siblings stayed behind.

The boys hadn't attended school for two years before Mohamed's death, Sen Const Thevar said.

He was treated by a doctor for an ulcer on his face several weeks before he was hospitalised, but tuberculosis was undiagnosed at the time.

Doctors determined had Mohamed been at school, he would have been significantly unwell enough to raise the attention of authorities and it was highly likely he would have received the necessary treatment.

His brother said Mohamed had been showing symptoms since about February 2005.

Mr Awali told hospital and DHHS staff he had been a nurse in Somalia and had firsthand experience treating tuberculosis patients.

But he was unable to explain why he didn't get treatment for Mohamed.

RCH doctor Sarath Ranganathan questioned Mr Awali's "apparent lack of parental concern" for Mohamed and noted it was highly unlikely the boy had only developed symptoms three weeks before he was hospitalised as his father had claimed.

The coroner will hand down his findings at a later date.

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