Ms Dhu 7c - Disbelieved and Dying


Disbelieved and Dying

On 2 August 2014, the first day that Ms Dhu was taken to the Hedland Health Campus (HHC), she was given a triage score of 4 (low acuity).

‘Can you help me?…It’s hurting like hell.’

Ms Dhu, question to Constable Sharples before being taken to HHC on 2 August

When asked to describe her pain on a scale of one to ten, she said ten, but official disbelief dogs Ms Dhu at every stage. Evidence from medical staff suggests that an escorting police officer stated that she was fine and only started to complain of pain after being told she was going to stay overnight in the lockup.

When Ms Dhu was examined, she recoiled when the Nurse touched her t-shirt. The Nurse responded with words to the effect of ‘I didn’t touch you’ or ‘I hardly touched you’ and allegedly rolled her eyes. During the Inquest, Dr Lang said she thought Ms Dhu’s limp was ‘a little bit artificial’ like she was playing up her symptoms. Her emergency department notes state the impression of ‘behavioural gain’. Her discharge diagnosis records ‘behavioural issues’. Despite this, Ms Dhu was given Endone, a strong analgesic, and Diazepam, a sedative agent. She was deemed ‘fit for custody’.

‘They said she was faking it – how can you fake dying?…She wasn’t exaggerating, the poor girl was dying.’

Della Roe, Ms Dhu’s Mother


Carolyn Lewis, is standing at a protest in the Supreme Court Gardens in Perth. In one hand she holds a microphone and in the other holds a bright yellow placard with the words 'We're Not FAKING, We're DYING' on it.

On 3 August 2014,  Ms Dhu was taken to HHC, for the second time, after indicating she was in pain.  Nurses and Doctors failed to take her temperature or record a pain score. A high temperature reading would have led to further tests and potentially allowed medical staff to detect and treat her illness. At the end of Ms Dhu’s emergency department notes, Dr Naderi recorded his impressions and noted a discharge diagnosis of ‘? withdrawal from drugs’ and ‘behavioural issues’.

On 4 August 2014 at 9:54am, Ms Dhu pushed the cell call button for the last time. At 10:28am, First Class Constable Matier said something to former Sergeant Bond about ‘hospital’ to which he received the response, ‘That would be the third time she’s been to hospital. She is fit to be held’. He reportedly stated to Ms Dhu ‘this is the last fucking time you’re going to hospital’. On this point, he was right.

Throughout the 48 hours prior to Ms Dhu’s death she was disbelieved and dismissed. She was characterised by medical staff and police as a ‘junkie’ who was ‘misbehaving’ and ‘coming off drugs’. She was accused of ‘faking it’ or ‘exaggerating her symptoms’, but she was doing neither: she was dying.


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