Death in a recliner chair: 'Wife did not fail to prevent injury'

Author
Miriam Burrell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 25 May 2021, 12:39PM
Malia Li is on trial for causing her husband's death by failing to provide necessities as his legal carer. (Photo / Michael Craig)
Malia Li is on trial for causing her husband's death by failing to provide necessities as his legal carer. (Photo / Michael Craig)

Death in a recliner chair: 'Wife did not fail to prevent injury'

Author
Miriam Burrell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 25 May 2021, 12:39PM

A woman whose husband allegedly died from infected sores all over his body, sitting in his own encrusted faecal matter and a maggot pupae in his hip, did not fail to take reasonable steps to prevent injury, a jury has heard.

Malia Li is on trial for manslaughter in the High Court at Auckland.

The mother of two is accused of causing Lanitola Epenisa's death by failing to provide him with necessities as his legal carer, such as food, water, medical care and hygiene between January and October 2016.

He died from sepsis, a blood infection from untreated pressure sores on his buttocks sometime on the night between October 1 and 2, 2016, a jury heard.

He died fused to the recliner chair where he spent his last days, his skin falling off as he was taken away by ambulance staff, Crown prosecutor Jasper Rhodes said.

A nest of mice and a bag of soiled clothes were found in the room which Epenisa, Li and their two twin daughters shared.

But defence lawyer Mark Ryan said his expert witness claims the pressure sores were very recent, and Li did not fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the sores from developing or worsening.

"The deceased was a very, very unhealthy person," Ryan told the jury.

"As soon as those pressure sores became infected, there was no defence mechanism in his body able to stop blood poisoning."

Ryan said the case was "tragic" and urged the jury to focus its attention on the pressure sores.

Epenisa did not die of starvation, from lack of water but from sepsis caused by pressure sores, Ryan said.

Malia Li's husband died from infected pressure sores, a jury heard at her manslaughter trial at the High Court in Auckland. (Photo / Michael Craig)

Major health issues began for Epenisa when he suffered a stroke in September 2014 that forced him out of full-time work.

He was cared for at Middlemore Hospital for a month but suffered a second stroke in December 2014 shortly after being discharged, the jury heard in medical evidence read out by the Crown.

He was discharged a year later, in February 2016. He was capable of feeding himself at this point but required some assistance with showering and dressing.

The family moved out of their rental home in Hillsborough - which they could no longer afford without Epenisa's income - and into a Tongan village community house on Vine St in Māngere.

Li and her daughter sought a prescription for Epenisa from the Māngere Family Doctors in May 2016, saying he was bedridden. Drugs lasting 28 days were prescribed.

Māngere Family Doctors attempted to make arrangements for a home visit for Epenisa but this never happened.

The family moved to a relative's house in Māngere and this was where Epenisa died, sometime between 10pm and 1am on the night of October 1, 2016 from infected pressure wounds.

A level two NZQA national certificate in health and disability foundational skills obtained by Li in February 2014 was produced as evidence by the Crown.

The Crown alleges the qualification proves Li had some training and experience in caring for people in similar position to Epenisa.

The trial before Justice Edwin Wylie has been set down for six weeks.