Australian family say toddler who died of undiagnosed leukaemia was refused blood tests multiple times

Sandipan Dhar
Sandipan Dhar, a 21-month-old from the northern Perth suburb of Joondalup, succumbed to complications from leukaemia on March 24. His parents claim they requested blood tests multiple times to diagnose his fever, but were refused. Photo credit: Via

The parents of a one-year-old boy who died in hospital claim that doctors denied their repeated requests for blood tests, despite his persistent symptoms.

Sandipan Dhar, a 21-month-old from the northern Perth suburb of Joondalup, succumbed to complications from leukaemia on March 24, The West Australian reports.

The toddler had developed a mild fever shortly after receiving his 18-month vaccinations on February 19, his parents said. Concerned, they first took Sandipan to the Key Largo Medical Centre in nearby Clarkson, but their request for blood work was allegedly refused.

The Dhars said they called and visited the GP practice multiple times as Sandipan's fever persisted, but were told that a post-vaccination fever was normal and could be treated with paracetamol and ibuprofen.

According to Sandipan's father, Sanjoy Dhar, they were assured by staff that no further tests were required and advised to monitor his fever at home, as reported by The West Australian.

With the one-year-old's condition continuing to worsen, the Dhars decided to take him to the local hospital, the Joondalup Health Campus, on March 22. The couple, who said they spent about six hours at the hospital that day, claimed their repeated requests for blood tests were again denied by clinicians, who allegedly offered the same advice as the GP practice.

Two days later, Sandipan was struggling to breathe, and the Dhars returned to the hospital. An X-ray revealed he had pneumonia and needed to be put on oxygen.  

"I asked the doctors how quickly pneumonia can develop because we had brought Sandipan on Friday and they said he was perfectly fine," Dhar said, as reported by The West Australian. "They didn't give me an answer and said they needed to do further investigations."  

Dhar claims he was questioned by doctors as to why Sandipan hadn't been brought in sooner - despite being told just days prior that his son was fine.

"The duty doctors and nurses were trying to put all the blame on us, saying that we came too late," he said. "But when we said we had been to the hospital on Friday, they just kept their mouths shut."

The child's condition continued to deteriorate at the hospital, and he died two hours after being taken to emergency care.  

After a nine-week wait for the post-mortem results, the Dhar family learned last week that Sandipan had died of complications from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia - a diagnosis that had been missed during his multiple GP visits.  

Sandipan's older brother, four-year-old Mrinal, "still refuses to believe he is not coming back", his father said.

"We eventually started lying and saying his brother has just gone away for a while."

Clinicians at Joondalup Health Campus have denied that the Dhars repeatedly requested blood tests two days before Sandipan's death. However, Dr Shane Kelly, the state manager for Ramsay Health Care - a healthcare provider that operates the hospital - admitted to The West Australian that there may be a "disconnect" between the recollections of staff and the family.

The Dhars are set to meet with hospital representatives on Monday.

Dr Kelly said on Friday he could not say whether Sandipan might still be alive if he received a blood test at Joondalup Health Campus on March 22, the outlet reports. He noted that hospital staff "didn't pick up those cues" that the Dhars wanted their son to undergo testing.

"I think we need to explore that more with family on Monday because we do have something of a disconnect between what our staff have said and what Mr Dhar has said," Dr Kelly added. 

The Coroner's Court has launched an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Sandipan's death.

As per, a spokesperson for Ramsay Health Care said it was "unlikely Sandipan's hospital care was a factor in his death".  

The statement added that samples from Sandipan "showed features of an undiagnosed longer term acute illness which may have contributed to his death".