US student's family to sue NHS over death days before final exam

The University of St Andrews, Fife
The University of St Andrews, Fife
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The parents of a St Andrews university student who died just days before finishing her degree are to sue the doctors responsible for her care.

Californian student Kaitlyn Vasconcellos, 24, was just one exam away from finishing her Applied Economics degree when her body was discovered in her university accommodation.

Now papers have been lodged at the Court of Session in Edinburgh seeking personal damages on behalf of her parents Guy and Linda, as well as brother Craig, sister Brooke and grandmother Dolores McCall.

The claims have been made against doctors at the Pipeland Medical Practice in St Andrews as well as NHS Fife and NHS Tayside health boards.

In the days before her death, Miss Vasconcellos had complained of stomach pains and was briefly admitted to hospital. The 24-year-old previously underwent surgery for an unexplained infection two months earlier.

On the day her body was found in her room at Agnes Blackadder Hall of Residence police were called but it is understood she had already passed away.

Miss Vasconcellos, known to her friends and family as Kate, was awarded a posthumous degree in Applied Economics (honours) by the University of St Andrews University in May 2015.

Members of the Vasconcellos family visited St Andrews this week to take part in the traditional pier jump. Kate had planned to take part before her graduation. Mum Linda also read her daughter's honours thesis in front of the economics building on June 27, what would have been Kate's 28th birthday.

Mrs Vasconcellos told The Saint student newspaper the family wanted to ensure Kate was not forgotten and that she and Brooke were "carrying her spirit forward and keeping it alive." A bench in Miss Vasconcellos honour has also been put outside the halls where she spent her final weeks.

Following Miss Vasconcellos' death, the then principal of the university Professor Louise Richardson said: "She brimmed with energy and immersed herself in her studies and extracurricular pursuits. She was a member of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society and was also a committed supporter of our LGBT Society."

Miss Vasconcellos was the first hetrosexual person to join the board of the St Andrews LGBT+ society and took part in the annual Drag Walk.

Edinburgh-based legal firm Balfour and Manson are acting for the Vasconcellos family. Further details of the claim have not been revealed and the case is not expected to be called to court until early 2019.

Pipeland Medical Centre declined to comment on the legal action. NHS Fife did not respond to requests for comment.