Avoidable Death of Aboriginal Man in Custody Prompts Calls for Reforms by NT Agencies

Darwin, Northern Territory – The Northern Territory Coroner, Elisabeth Armitage, has determined that the death of Mr. Dooley, a 37-year-old Aboriginal man who died in police custody in 2022, was avoidable. Armitage found significant shortcomings in Mr. Dooley’s care at Royal Darwin Hospital that led to his tragic passing. The coroner’s recommendations for reforms extend to multiple agencies involved in Mr. Dooley’s case, including NT Health, NT Corrections, and the NT Police Force.

Mr. Dooley, a Maiyali man from the Eva Valley community in the Northern Territory, passed away in palliative care at Royal Darwin Hospital after suffering from a heart attack. The coroner’s report highlighted failures in Mr. Dooley’s care, including the absence of necessary referrals to a cardiologist despite abnormal electrocardiogram results.

Cardiologist Kenneth Hossack testified during the inquest that a referral to a cardiologist in 2019 could have revealed a blockage in Mr. Dooley’s arteries, potentially altering the course of events leading to his death. Despite another abnormal ECG result in 2022, Mr. Dooley was not referred to a cardiologist, with health professionals failing to address critical health concerns that could have saved his life.

The coroner’s findings shed light on instances where Mr. Dooley’s deteriorating health was overlooked, with delays in medical interventions and oversight contributing to a tragic outcome. The neglect in following proper medical protocols and procedures by health professionals, NT Corrections, and NT Police further exacerbated the situation, leading to a preventable tragedy.

Armitage’s recommendations for improvements in ECG management, access to interpreters and Aboriginal health workers, and enhanced medical response protocols aim to prevent similar incidents in the future. The tragic death of Mr. Dooley serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of thorough and timely medical care, especially for vulnerable populations in custody. The findings of the coroner’s report highlight systemic failures that must be addressed to prevent such avoidable losses in the future.

In response to the coroner’s recommendations, NT Health, NT Corrections, and the NT Police Force must now take proactive steps to implement changes that prioritize the well-being and safety of individuals in their care. The tragic passing of Mr. Dooley underscores the critical need for reforms and accountability in the healthcare and law enforcement sectors to prevent such heartbreaking incidents from reoccurring.