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'Nothing can bring her back': mother

David Landes · 7 Sep 2011, 11:57

Published: 07 Sep 2011 11:57 GMT+02:00

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Jill Söderberg, 22, came down with a stomach bug after Christmas 2010 that later developed influensa-like symptoms.

Her mother Annika had been having trouble reaching her daughter and on January 27th finally decided to drive by Jill's apartment in Timrå in northern Sweden.

“I was actually getting annoyed because she hadn't answered my calls or text messages,” Annika Söderberg told The Local.

“I decided to stop by and drop off a bag of food on my way to work. I hung it on the door and knocked, but she didn't answer.”

Later that evening, Annika asked Jill's father to go check on their daughter.

“He found the bag of food still hanging on the door and discovered the door was unlocked. He went in and found Jill lying on the sofa, dead,” said Annika.

What Jill's family didn't realise at the time was that their daughter had been lying dead for almost a week.

Annika's suspicions that her daughter's death could have been avoided grew stronger when she later found Jill's mobile phone while cleaning out her apartment.

Looking through the recent calls, Annika discovered that Jill's last phone call was on January 20th to ambulance operator SOS Alarm.

“The call lasted 15 minutes, and that got me thinking,” she said.

In total, Jill had placed three calls from her mobile phone to SOS Alarm, but to no avail.

Eventually, Annika arranged a meeting with representatives from SOS Alarm during which she was allowed to read transcripts of her Jill's pleas for an ambulance.

“I can't breathe,” Jill told emergency operators.

“I want you to come and help me.”

But the operator's response came as a shock to Jill's mother.

“The operator considered her to still be communicating verbally and decided that she didn't need an ambulance,” said Annika.

Jill's mother pressed SOS Alarm to explain how it was possible to deny someone an ambulance simply because that person was talking.

“How could you even call for an ambulance in the first place?” she asked.

“No one could answer that one.”

After more than six months without any answers as to how her daughter's pleas for help went unheeded by SOS Alarm, Annika Söderberg last week filed a complaint with Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

“A mistake has been made, but exactly where it happened remains to be determined,” she said.

“It shouldn't have to be like this – that someone isn't believed when they call for an ambulance.”

Part of the problem with receiving an explanation regarding what happened stems from differing views from SOS Alarm and Västernorrland County health authorities about which agency had ultimate responsibility.

In a statement issued to The Local in June when press reports about the incident first appeared, SOS Alarm's Klarström explained that, according to an internal investigation into the incident, the company's operators acted "completely in accordance with instructions" laid out in a contract between SOS Alarm and Västernorrland County health authorities.

Story continues below…

According to Klarström, attempts were made to connect the woman to healthcare professionals with a higher level of expertise available from nurses employed by the county in order to make a better assessment of her needs.

Speaking with Expressen newspaper on Tuesday, Lennart Moberg, director of primary care at the Västernorrland County Council said that SOS Alarm still has the overall responsibility for dispatching ambulances.

However, he promised his agency would cooperate with the health board's investigation.

“We will support the National Board of Health and Welfare and turn over every stone to figure out what went wrong in this case. It's a deeply tragic incident,” he told the newspaper.

An autopsy attributed Jill's death to breathing problems caused by her having taken anxiety medication in combination with muscle relaxers. While she had a prescription for the anxiety medication, Jill's mother isn't sure where her daughter received the muscle relaxers.

Nevertheless, Annika still agonizes over the fact that her daughter's accidental mixing of the drugs proved fatal, but that Jill's death could have possibly been avoided if an ambulance had been sent.

“Nothing is going to bring Jill back, but this can't happen again,” she said.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:23 September 7, 2011 by gh2008
@ jacquelinee,

here you again!

and i fully support you.
13:28 September 7, 2011 by jacquelinee
@ gh2008 thank you.

Just more of the same. See Streja? Every week it's something new or someone trying to get some answers for someting in the past. How can one NOT point fingers at the Swedish health care?
13:54 September 7, 2011 by djmarko
well if people here actually spoke with their neighbours and became friendly, she might have been able to call the neighbour to help out, to be found dead for a week is so disgusting without the neighbours noticing something strange, that is not right at all!!!
13:58 September 7, 2011 by Mb 65
Why didn't they have a key to the daughters flat? She lay there for one week surely alarm bells would ring when the hadn't heard from her. But i agree these so called emergency operators should be held responsible. The health service in Sweden is great so long as you are not ill. In July 3 women had their breasts removed for cancer they never had. it's disgusting.
14:00 September 7, 2011 by dolphin, the
It is really annoying to hear authorities in the healthcare system avoiding responsibility one after the other. Is it not better to be accountable and take the necessary measure so that these mistakes would never happen again?
14:09 September 7, 2011 by heavenblues
these are just reported cases think about the cases that never reported..shame for sweden...

system needs to change..
14:20 September 7, 2011 by Joshe
This is what'll happen to those societies which depend more on a state/govt instead of establishing links within the community (human contacts).
14:31 September 7, 2011 by Tysknaden
Sorry for the dead woman and her family.

What happened is to bitter to be forgiven. This operator is a killer. Cynical and without empathy.

How can someone continue living with what he/ she has done?
15:01 September 7, 2011 by darky
OMG. So beautiful a girl. RIP ! But this kind of live that children wanna be independent at a young age and broken homes are not so nice even though this society sees it as normal.
15:10 September 7, 2011 by Abe L
That's what you get for living in a third world countries who's inhabitants consider it a social utopia.

I'm pretty sure nobody will get fired and disallowed to ever work in the medical industry again for this.
15:15 September 7, 2011 by jamesblish
It's terrible. But is it really healthcare? I don't really think so. Regardless, this sort of thing has to stop. One death is one too many and now we've got several in just a year. We pay taxes so that these things are there for us when we need them. This shouldn't happen, ever.
15:25 September 7, 2011 by summo
she gots so ill she only rang for an ambulance at the last minute, when the ambulance wouldn't come she did not call anyone else and at no time she tell any of her friend, family or work mates etc that she was ill and suffering, something is not quite right here!?

Why did mom wait 6mths before making a complaint?

More to this story than the family are let on, still sad she died, but only one of the reason is the lack of ambulance. Taxi to hospital?
15:33 September 7, 2011 by swedejane
The healthcare system works perfectly, it's just all of these patients who keep messing it up.
16:01 September 7, 2011 by krrodman
Something does not make sense.

The article suggests that she died of an accidental drug overdose. It specifically says that she took anti-anxiety medicines and muscle relaxers. I assume an autopsy identified the medicines in question.

None of those medicines, alone or in combination, would make a person short of breath. To the contrary, an overdose of those medicines would make a person somnolent and, ultimately, unresponsive.

We are missing pieces of the puzzle.
17:06 September 7, 2011 by Addendum
Swedish Hell Care.

Godspeed, Jill et. al.
17:14 September 7, 2011 by pasto
Which is better, rationing services when the State pays for all healthcare, or the situation seen in most of the USA which is known by EMS as, "You call, we haul." At least that way, everyone who calls gets evaluated by trained professionals, and if they wish to go to the hospital they are transported. Of course, if you are transported to the hospital, expect to be billed for the services.
17:19 September 7, 2011 by Ben Dover
I'm from the U.S. I just can't wait until ObamaCare kicks in. I can't wait for some bureaucrat to decide what services are appropriate for me.
17:32 September 7, 2011 by summo
the US system where you need an endless pot of cash if you require endless treatment, or pay for insurance, other you WILL be refused treatment. Don't see anyone being refused treatment in SE, this story is certainly not the case. Sounds like she has 1 prescribed med, plus some other she sourced herself, what side effects would that give you? who knows what else. Only half the story here.

The US system is currently a private health system, it's just not called that.
17:56 September 7, 2011 by calebian22

Just go to the emergency room like all the illegals. It is against the law in the US for hospitals to ask about residency status, check your SS number before treatment, or deny you service. Only legals with valid SS numbers who can be tracked down for billing get hit with large payments. Ilegals with bogus SS numbers, get first class, "free" health care....
19:36 September 7, 2011 by procrustes
it's becoming clear that screening potential emergency patients by phone does not work. Perhaps all ambulance calls must be answered and those calls deemed not valid charged for the service.
22:05 September 7, 2011 by wxman
@ Ben Dover, you are so right. I think this negligence could easily be referred to as a "death panel" decision. But of course, Sarah Palin was chastised for suggesting such a thing would exist. Well, here's what it looks like. Welcome to government "healthcare"! I can hardly wait.
22:20 September 7, 2011 by wood artist
@wxman @Ben Dover

The interesting part of your conversation is two things. First, nothing that you describe actually exists in the Health Care bill that was passed. Palin simply made that up...because it sounded good.

The second thing, which you apparently ignore for now, is there already IS such a person who decides your coverage and care. The difference is that s/he is called the "Plan Administrator" and...better yet...s/he works for a company designed to make a profit. Guess who s/he's looking out for. HINT: It ain't you!

23:22 September 7, 2011 by johnoleson
@would be artist @waxman @bend over

Please don't get diverted. This is about Swedish healthcare and it generally works OK. We also know where the wealthy Swedes go for more serious ailments,.......................... you guessed it, the good old USofA.
23:24 September 7, 2011 by Kenny W
@Wood artist.

I was thinking the same. What is it with people who defend such a system? It seems that all discussions these days are caught up with the dichotomies of political left and right. Discourse is getting really boring.

I suppose if wxman and Den Dover came from backgrounds of wealth above the norm then I suppose they're right to protect their own interests.

My experience in Sweden has taught me not to trust their service. I double check their work even it's something like getting my car fixed. So of course I am not so keen to hand over any responsibility of my body to the medical profession here. I think the problem in Sweden is more of a cultural problem than a political one. They seem adverse to take the initiative and make good decisions, and slow in accepting accountability.
00:04 September 8, 2011 by Beavis
You hit the nail on the head Kenny W! Anyone who thinks otherwise is away with the fairies
00:43 September 8, 2011 by jacquelinee
@ Kenny W

I agree with everything you said except the "slow in accepting accountability" That should read "Devoid of accepting accountability"
02:27 September 8, 2011 by Visew
Comment: I am not sure whether you are aware that this SOS Alarm is a private company contracted by Swedish gov to do this service. As a private company, they are driven by keeping cost low. It is not government health care to be blamed. It is the combination of a kind of socialist system with private, for-profit service that causes this appalling incident (and also the death of the 23year old with ruptured spleen in the winter). What makes the quality of the service here different from that of the US system is that there is no competition. They have the monopoly and maybe that's why nothing happens to them yet. Look at what is happening to the education system too. Who knows what those private/charter schools are actually doing with quality of teaching. Who can stop them from propping up students grades to get their kids pass others to go to college and call themselves better. Think of Sweden a couple of decades ago, it was the dreamland of so many people including some of us here. Now the authorities seems to be too lazy to plan system in details, or may be that generation of capable, unselfish policy makers is gone, leaving us with people who only think of their own pocket first. Chartering, contracting may be the norm nowadays to "catch up" with the "modern world"!
07:50 September 8, 2011 by Prat
If sick and needing to call for an ambulance, I wonder if mentioning a link to Moderate Party officialdom will get you better service?
10:06 September 8, 2011 by cattie

You make many valid points.

One point that the Swedish government and many posters here miss is this. If privatization of public services and profit motive is a given. What is missing is system of checks and balances. In the USA, consequences and accountability for the private sector take the form of lawsuits with punitive damages. A government organization which gives administer small fines on private firm in the public trust is not enough. The risk of loss is very small for the private firm.

However, if a a mistake like this would surely result in a huge lawsuit costing millions of crowns, you better believe the private firm would have checks in place so this mistakes would not happen.

Without punitive damages in lawsuits, the privatization will continue to offer such results as this (deaths and disabilities) on a regular basis.
10:50 September 8, 2011 by Kenny W

So true. I stand corrected.
10:55 September 8, 2011 by TF7
Its a crying shame for such a tragedy to happen. So many unanswered questions.

As for SOS Alarm and Västernorrland County health authorities passing the blame around that does not surprise me. I think it is Swedish culture to not stand up and admit a mistake was made by them and pass the buck on to someone else instead. Communication is the key here and there was none between these two companies in this case. They need to stand up and admit a mistake was made and do everything they can to make sure something like this does not happen again!!!!!

Stand up SOS Alarm and Västernorrland County health authorities.!!!!!!!!
11:24 September 8, 2011 by jacquelinee
To quote my comment from the many other reported times ambulatory care was refused to a person who called and neededit and it was denied here in Sweden................

" If you need an ambulance here in Sweden, when you call. tell them you'r leg has been severed (better yet both) or you have been shot in the head....TWICE!" Maybe then, just MAYBE you may get one sent.
14:01 September 8, 2011 by soultraveler3
@ jacquelinee

Did you first comment get deleted because someone disagreed with what you said? Gh2008's comment is number 1 now. Not sure why it isn't there. Anyways, I completely agree with the rest of your comments.

The thought of becoming injured or seriously sick here honestly scares me. That there's still people out there defending it or claiming that it's a good healthcare system is scary as well.

To the posters claiming you get denied healthcare in the states, you're simply wrong. Most Americans have health insurance, but even if you don't, it's okay. You can walk into any emergency room in the entire country and they HAVE to treat you. It doesn't matter if you have insurance or not or if you're in the country legally or not.

They also HAVE to send out an ambulance if you call and want one. Same goes for the police, even if kids are being stupid and dial 911 as a joke then hang up, a policeman with show up, just to make sure.

It may cost more, but the level of care, equipment and resources is far superior to anything I've seen here in Sweden and at least you know you can get help.

As far as the article is concerned, it's so sad that this young woman had to die. She's yet another victim of the wonderful healthcare system here. How many is it going to take before something is done?
14:51 September 8, 2011 by cogito

Swedes have been brainwashed about U.S. healthcare. If they knew how good it is, they would never accept Swedish Hell-care.

The ER and clinic care, by law available to everyone, with or without insurance, is superior to what passes for medical treatment. in Sweden.

French healthcare and hospitals are also excellent. By all reports, only Britain's NHS is worse Sweden. The NHS is the model for Obamacare.

@jacqueline: keep up the good work.
15:45 September 8, 2011 by Streja
Jacqui, stop calling my name when making posts on health related issues. Contrary to what you may believe, I do not think it's fair that breasts are removed wrongly or that peole die waiting for ambulances. So please stop. What I was trying to get across to you weeks before this was that you should not shout and blame it on Sweden and Swedes. Things like this do not happen because we are Swedes. They happen because there is a fault in the system.

SOS Alarm is a private company. This is what you get when health care is private. It was kind of interesting that someone blamed this on state run health care.
16:27 September 8, 2011 by johnoleson
Streja, it is state run health care. SOS Alarm is a private company contracted by the state not individuals. They answer to the state and only the state can fire(sever their contract) them. That is state run health care.
16:15 September 9, 2011 by jacquelinee
@ Streja

I can not recall the many exact instances..........but the breast issue was just a tip of that iceberg and, I don't see how you can possibly distinguish between Swedish healthcare and Sweden, or Swedish doctors and Sweden. I never have had a problem here with the doctors from other countries I have had the luck to be sent to, but, they are few and far between. I must say though, I was to a specialist in Gothenberg yesterday, a Swedish one, who was absolutely great, knowlegeable, pleasant and more than willing to take the time to explain things properly. He actually seemed to care. I was surprised. He was one in a million...literally.

SOS as johnoleson said, is a state run contract(Swedish, there is no other way to say the truth, no matter how you sugar coat it or reword it) I don't have to say anything to anyone explaining how flawed and dangerous the Swedish healthcare system is. All one has to do is be able to read to figure that out. Sure other countries have issues but I would hazard to guess, not as frequently for as few. Private Swedish company or State run Swedish health care. What ever way you look at it....same manure just a diffferent pile.
21:03 September 9, 2011 by dratman
My beautiful 25 year old daughter died three months ago here in the States in almost exactly the same way (without the phone call, though). Today's medicines are very potent and can definitely kill you if you take too much, or the wrong combination. I will grieve the loss of my beloved girl/woman with every breath I take for the rest of my life, but like the young woman in this story, my daughter took a terrible chance by taking medicines that had not been prescribed for her. My conclusions are first, people should not live alone unless there is literally no alternative. My daughter would almost certainly be alive, and might be sitting here with me at this moment, if she had been living with us or had had a roommate. Second, the public needs more education on how extremely easy it is to die by mistake when experimenting with prescription medications. Far mor people die from legal but non-prescribed medication than from "street" drugs, simply because more legal drugs are produced, and more people use them without understanding the dangers.

I have never been so sad, nor cried as much or as hard, in my entire life of 60 years, as I have in these past three months. I miss my daughter so much.

22:50 September 9, 2011 by jacquelinee
@ dratman #39

I am so sorry Ralf. I can not even imagine the grief both you and Annika are going through. I have children and, as all parents, this is my worst fear. My heart goes out to you both and your families.
23:52 September 9, 2011 by dratman
Thank you, Jacqueline. I very much appreciate your kind words.
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