Mother-of-three died in agony from Crohn’s disease after doctors said she was ‘imagining most of her pain’

  • Michelle Ashby was diagnosed with the chronic disease 20 years earlier
  • She spent 3 years before she tragically died going in and out of hospital 
  • Family claim medical staff were unsympathetic to the ‘agony’ she was in
  • Coroner ruled she died of natural causes and nothing could’ve been done  

A woman who visited hospital 50 times in the lead up to her death was told by medics the chronic pain she suffered was all in her head, her husband claims.

Michelle Ashby, 43, spent three years in and out of hospital suffering from inflammatory bowel disease Crohn’s.

The mother-of-three from Gillingham, Kent, died on January 18 last year.

The cause of death was first given as pneumonia, caused by Crohn’s disease.

But a post mortem examination revealed she actually died from multiple organ failure stemming from a perforation to her bowel.

Her husband David told an inquest into her death that doctors at Medway Maritime Hospital said his wife was imagining a lot of her pain.

On one occasion, a nurse threatened that if she did not stop screaming out in pain, she would be discharged, he claims.

‘We had around 50 admissions to Medway hospital. We were in and out for the last two years of her life,’ he said.

‘We had an ambulance outside our house every week – the paramedics used to come in for a cup of tea.

‘She was in constant pain and she never got better it just got continually worse.’

Mr Ashby added: ‘None of us expected what happened to her. We were not told her condition was life-threatening.

‘I was told a lot of the pain was in her head and that she was imagining it.’

Mrs Ashby was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1992 and has spent the past three years in and out of hospital.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut which affects millions of people worldwide.

Its cause is still not known and there is currently no cure but some with the condition have considered their diet to be a factor. Steroids and sometimes surgery are also recommended.

But serious complications – including perforation of the bowel – can occur.


Michelle Ashby, pictured in October 2014 with a swollen face and later on life support (right), died after spending three years in hospital with Crohn’s disease

She spent two years in and out of Medway Maritime Hospital but died at Darent Valley Hospital after the family lost all faith in the care she was getting at Medway.

She leaves family including three children – aged 24, 12 and five – as well as four grandchildren.

Assistant corner Kate Thomas concluded on Thursday that Mrs Ashby’s death was due to natural causes.

She said: ‘I find there is no evidence that had there been either a multi disciplinary meeting to discuss her case, or if Mrs Ashby had had surgery that the outcome probably would have been different – possibly but not probably.

‘Surgery itself in relation to Michelle would be major and complex and there would have been complications which would have detracted from her quality of life and surgery was the last resort.

‘It was a balancing act. There was always a risk of perforation and the disease becoming worse.’

A Medway NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said: ‘We’ve noted the Coroner’s conclusion that Michelle Ashby died of natural causes.

‘We would like pass on our thoughts to the family of Mrs Ashby at what is clearly a difficult time.’

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