Actor Died 4 Days After Weight Loss Surgery: Inquest Begins After Phil Morris' Death

Morris' wife, Dana, felt that the surgeon had been dismissive regarding her husband's symptoms.

An inquest, or judicial inquiry, heard that a Welsh actor, writer, and university lecturer died after his health rapidly deteriorated following weight loss surgery. Phil Morris, from Newport, England, died four days after undergoing sleeve gastrectomy surgery at the Spire St Anthony's Hospital in Cheam, Surrey, reported the BBC.

Morris, 48, was supposed to return home two days after his surgery, but things did not go as planned. Morris' wife, Dana, testified at the South London Coroner's Court that her husband opted for private treatment because of delays in the UK's National Health Service.

Dana, 48, told the inquest, per Wales Online: "Phil suffered with severe obstructive sleep apnea requiring CPAP (continuous positive airwave pressure) every night and was a type two diabetic. Phil had considered for a long period of time how to reduce his weight and decided to undergo bariatric surgery for the associated health benefits that weight reduction provides. 

"Initially he sought help from Mr. Khan (Professor Omar Khan, consultant general and surgeon at St. Anthony's) through the NHS. However, due to Covid his surgery date was indefinitely delayed and so he decided to have the surgery performed privately by Mr. Khan at the Spire Hospital after this option was suggested by Mr. Khan." 

As told at the inquest, Morris was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995, originally thought to be type 1, but later diagnosed as type 2 in 2018. A sleep apnoea diagnosis was made in 2007 as well.

Despite undergoing a bariatric assessment in 2018, Morris' diabetes prevented him from undergoing treatment. Following delays in treatment on the NHS, he had the surgery privately in 2021, the inquest heard.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a sleeve gastrectomy removes approximately 80% of the stomach, leaving a tube-shaped stomach about the size and shape of a banana, thus restricting the amount of food a patient can consume.

According to Dana, her husband "researched the procedure extensively" and watched countless videos online about gastric sleeve surgeries. As part of his preparation for the procedure, he had lost sufficient weight, cycled on an exercise bike at home, and adhered to an entirely liver-based diet for seven weeks beforehand. Dana recalled Morris telling her that the medics told him immediately before surgery that the risk of anything going wrong with the surgery was "less risky than a knee operation."

Dana's evidence read to the court, insisted that her husband was having difficulty swallowing and was experiencing shortness of breath just hours after surgery and that over the next several days, this condition, including numbness along his right side, progressively worsened, according to the BBC.

She felt that the surgeon had been dismissive regarding the difficulties her husband was experiencing and became uneasy and fearful when Morris sent her a photograph showing him looking vacant in the eyes as if he had suffered a stroke.

Dana told the court that Morris was making little progress while in the hospital, and he was throwing up water, which he was supposed to be keeping down during the following days. Medics at the hospital assured Dana that this was normal, and she became so concerned about it that she went to the hospital on Dec. 8, 2021, but was told she could not see her husband and was sent home.

During her visit to the hospital, Khan agreed to speak to her away from her husband. Dana said: "I recall him (Mr. Khan) explaining that since Phil had reported excruciating abdominal pain, he had ordered a CT scan and blood tests. Mr. Khan said the scan showed an issue with Phil's lungs. 

"He explained some fluid had collected because the lungs could not fully extend. Mr. Khan went on to say that the upper GI specialist, Mr Reddy, thought that everything was going to be fine, however Mr. Khan suspected that something may just not be quite right. He said he would have Phil in the high dependency unit to keep a close eye on him."

Dana said that she was called to the hospital the night before her husband died after he left the ward and was found outside in the rain, agitated. She described him as confused and telling their son to flee because the place was unsafe.

After being persuaded to return to the ward for treatment, Morris repeatedly went in and out of consciousness and was transferred to intensive care with the intention of being put into an induced coma and transferred to St George's the next day. In order not to interfere with the doctors and nurses, Dana left the hospital beforehand.

Morris passed away early on Dec. 10, 2021. "I then received a call from Myriame Lawley (ICU manager) at around 1.50am on Dec. 10," Mrs Morris said. "It was very unclear what the purpose of the call was and I was also unable to catch her name at the start of the call. About three minutes into this phone call after Myriame had mentioned Orson and I attending the hospital I interrupted her and asked if Phil was okay. Myriame then paused before telling me that Phil had died. I was shocked and in disbelief and remember exclaiming 'what?' as quietly as I could so not to wake Orson."

According to Dana, she had felt doctors had appeared calm enough hours earlier. She described the experience as a "bizarre nightmare." "I then phoned Mr. Khan, and it was only when I heard the tone in his voice that I realized it was all real and Phil had indeed passed. I recall Mr. Khan saying: 'This shouldn't have happened and there will definitely be an inquest.' He sounded angry."

As part of the inquest, Dr. Anwar Hussain, a consultant anesthetist at the Spire Hospital, also spoke. According to him, he was called in at around midnight to assist in resuscitating Morris. He explained that in the course of his treatment, the doctors were unable to access an airway that would allow him to be ventilated. Dr. Hussain told the coroner that Morris was unlikely to be able to be saved by the time he arrived at the hospital. 

Morris served as a founding member of the Wales Art Review and its managing director from 2012 to 2016. He was praised by many in the arts sector following his death. According to his friend Gary Raymond, he was "at his best when working on something that would mean something to people." The inquest is ongoing.