A coroner has returned a verdict of death from natural causes on a 72-year-old resident of a HSE-run centre for people with disabilities, despite hearing from a pathologist that extreme dehydration and malnutrition were contributory factors in the man's death.
Mayo coroner Patrick O’Connor delivered his verdict Monday after hearing expert evidence that Francis (Albert) Loughney, who died at Mayo University Hospital on November 18th, 2012, would have died anyway even if prescribed antibiotics and been hospitalised earlier.
Professor Cillian Twomey, retired geriatric consultant, carried out an extensive review into the medical circumstances of Mr Loughney's death at the request of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr Loughney, a single man with learning difficulties, who formerly lived at Gortskeddia, Crossmolina, had been a resident at Áras Attracta, Swinford, Co Mayo, since 1999. He died at Mayo University Hospital a day after being referred there by Foxford-based GP Dr Tomás O'Ceallaigh.
Dr Tamas Nemeth, consultant pathologist at Mayo University Hospital, gave the cause of Mr Loughney's death as sepsis due to acute bronchitis and bronchopneumonia with "severe contributing factors of extreme dehydration and malnutrition".
Professor Twomey, during cross-examination by Michael O’Connor, counsel for the next of kin, said earlier hospitalisation and treatment by antibiotics would not have changed what he described as the “inevitable outcome.”
He continued: “I think Mr Loughney was dying when he was referred to hospital.”
The professor added: “It seems to me a pity that position wasn’t anticipated more accurately so that supported palliative care could have been provided for him where he had been so well looked after for the previous 30 years.”
Professor Twomey said the the predominant cause of his death was infection, that Mr Loughney was more susceptible to the consequences of infection because of his poor physical state.
Áras Attracta staff, in the course of their evidence, described the deceased as “a lovable man” who had an excellent relationship with them and enjoyed telling stories of his past as a farm labourer.
Mr Loughney, they said, also liked music and discussing GAA football.
Returning a verdict of death from natural causes, the coroner, Mr O’Connor said it was regrettable it had taken so long for the inquiry to be completed.
He described the deceased as a very likeable person, “one of life’s special people”, who had been well looked after in Áras Attracta.