Woman (74) took her own life after hospital delay, inquest hears

Referral for woman’s urgent admission to centre ‘went astray’, court told

A woman suffering from anorexia took her own life after a referral for her urgent admission to hospital ‘went astray’, an inquest has heard. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A woman suffering from anorexia took her own life after a referral for her urgent admission to hospital ‘went astray’, an inquest has heard. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A woman suffering from anorexia took her own life after a referral for her urgent admission to hospital “went astray”, an inquest has heard.

The 74-year-old from Dublin was suffering from weight loss, anorexia and mild depression when she was referred by a GP to St John of God Hospital in Stillorgan.

It is thought she died at least a week before she was found at her home on September 22nd, 2014.

She was last seen alive at about 10pm on September 12th at the Davenport Hotel with a friend.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that more than seven days passed before a referral letter from GP Dr Patrick Lee requesting an urgent admission for the woman to the centre was acted upon.

The letter was dated September 10th and was sent by fax. It arrived at the hospital’s main office instead of the admissions unit and subsequently “went astray”, the hospital’s clinical director said.

The woman, who was first admitted to the hospital in 1984, was well known to staff and would often phone and ask to be admitted.

However, following the retirement of consultant psychiatrist Dr Rory Shelley, she told a friend the admissions process had changed and a referral letter was now required.

Clinical psychiatrist Dr John O’Donovan said he first saw the letter on September 15th and marked it to be followed up by his secretary, but this did not happen.

When he next saw the letter, on September 20th, he tried calling the patient but there was no answer.

He told Coroner Dr Brian Farrell he was “horrified” when he became aware of her death.

Death was self-inflicted and thought to have occurred about September 12th.

The coroner returned a verdict of death by suicide.