Bereavement due to traumatic death

Godfrey - Interview 39

Age at interview: 77

Brief outline: In 1995 Godfrey's son was fatally injured as he tried to board a train. Godfrey was denied information about exactly what had happened. The jury at the inquest decided it was an accident. It was an awful tragedy but Godfrey still has a positive attitude.

Background: Godfrey is a GP/academic. He is married and has 2 children (1 died). Ethnic background/nationality: White British

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In July 1995 Godfrey’s son, Adrian, was seriously injured as he tried to board a train. The train was leaving the station as Adrian tried to open a door. He fell and hit his head, and was taken to the local teaching hospital, where he was rushed to the operating theatre. After surgery Adrian was taken to the intensive care unit and put on life support machines.
When Godfrey heard that his son was unlikely to survive he found it hard to believe what had happened. It was all a terrible shock. After about 24 hours he and his wife had to make the difficult decision to turn off the life support machines. This decision was made easier due to the caring attitude of the hospital staff. Godfrey and his wife also made the decision to allow organ transplantation. Having made that decision they were glad to find that Adrian had been carrying an organ donor card.
During this awful time and during the months that followed, Godfrey and his wife were supported by family, friends, colleagues and a university college chaplain. Adrian’s funeral took place in a college chapel. Then his ashes were buried in Godfrey’s garden. Godfrey and his wife have placed a bench in Wytham Woods in memory of Adrian, near where he did his research for his PhD.
After Adrian’s death Godfrey and his wife wanted as much information as possible. They wanted to know why Adrian had fallen when trying to board the train. They assumed they would be told what had happened as soon as the railway company had finished their own internal inquiry. However, the railway company refused to let the family see the documents.
Six months later the inquest was held. The coroner also refused to disclose what was in the report that had been written following the inquiry. The jury decided that Adrian’s death had been an accident and Godfrey and his family left the court feeling upset and angry because once more they had been denied access to information. They could not accept that their son had died, that there had been an inquiry, but that they had not been able to see the report. Godfrey and his wife spent years trying to get the train company to let them see the result of the inquiry. The media got involved. Journalists wrote articles about the situation, the TV and radio asked for interviews and others also argued that the family had a right to the information (see below for more details).
When the freedom of information act was passed Godfrey and his wife tried once more to see the report of the inquiry. The final outcome was that they were allowed to see an edited version of the report, but only after they had signed a confidentiality agreement and agreed that they would not talk to anyone about the findings and that they would not involve any lawyers.
Adrian’s death was an enormously painful experience and an awful tragedy. However, his death has made Godfrey appreciate how lucky he is to have the other members of his family and the support of so many friends and colleagues. After Adrian’s death Godfrey and his wife were determined to reconstruct their lives. They had a positive attitude and decided that they would not spend the rest of their lives moaning about what had happened. Godfrey is glad that he has such good memories of Adrian, and that he had a good relationship with his son before he died.
For more about Godfrey’s experiences and his search for information about exactly what happened on the day Adrian died see a chapter in a book by Sue Cameron. The chapter, number 3, is called The Dead Man’s Tale (see below for details)'
Sue Cameron (2002) The Cheating Classes. Simon and Schuster: London pp.74-102.
Godfrey was interviewed in 2009.


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