A coronial inquest into the death of a 21-year-old woman from sepsis caused by a flesh-eating bacteria has heard that a junior doctor was reduced to googling her symptoms.
On the final day of the inquest into the death in October 2011 of Sara Hampel at Gove Hospital in Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory Coroner Greg Cavanagh said it appeared her severe sepsis should have been identified earlier.
But, because her condition was so rare, when a junior doctor in Darwin was contacted by Gove Hospital staff, the Google web site was consulted to try and identify what was wrong.
The inquiry heard that doctors did not suspect sepsis initially because Mrs Hampel did not have a fever, a key indicator.
A pathologist, Professor Robert Baird, told the inquest that under new protocols it would have been identified based on other factors, including her heart rate, platelet count and severe pain.
Mrs Hampel, who had given birth to a baby eight days before, died of organ failure while waiting to be transferred by CareFlight to Royal Darwin Hospital, 600 kilometres to the west.
Professor Baird said she would have needed disabling surgery in order to survive the severe sepsis caused by nercrotising fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria .
Mrs Hampel's father, Chas Nokes, pleaded for changes to hospital protocols.
During closing submissions to the inquiry, Mr Nokes asked the Coroner to recommend more safeguards be put in place for treating sepsis at remote hospitals across Australia.
The inquest highlighted how doctors failed to identify sepsis or the rare bacteria that caused it during a critical time frame, and that Mrs Hampel should have been airlifted to Darwin sooner.
The Coroner will deliver his findings at a later date.