Unidentified man has been in Irish psychiatric hospital for 30 years

Efforts to establish John Doe’s true identity or find next of kin have failed, court hears

The High Court heard the man’s physical condition is deteriorating and his clinical team believe resuscitation would not be appropriate. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The High Court heard the man’s physical condition is deteriorating and his clinical team believe resuscitation would not be appropriate. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

An elderly man has remained in a psychiatric hospital for more than thirty years without his true identity having ever been established, the High Court has heard.

The man was first admitted to the psychiatric hospital after being taken there by gardaí in the mid 1980s.

He was reported to be living “a hermit’s life” and sleeping rough in a bus shelter with a dog whom he said he had “on loan”. He had also referred to living in Dublin “for years”.

At some point after his admission, he was given a name and estimated date of birth of 1930 but essentially remains a “John Doe” – a man whose identity is unknown.

Efforts to establish his true identity and to find any next of kin have failed to date but they have been reactivated in recent years arising from advances in technology.

The man has a history of schizophrenia and dementia, along with cardiac and respiratory conditions, and his condition is deteriorating.

In those circumstances, his case came before High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly on Monday.

Lebeau Jonker, solicitor for the HSE, secured an order, ex parte (one side only represented) and in the context of intended wardship proceedings, to have a court-appointed medical doctor visit the man for the purpose of assessing his capacity.

The judge also made an order appointing a guardian to represent the man’s interests in the wardship matter.

The court heard the application arose in a situation where doctors say the man’s physical health is deteriorating and he has had a number of hospital admissions, including for fluid retention from heart failure and recurrent respiratory tract infections.

His clinical team consider it would not be appropriate to resuscitate him should his condition deteriorate further to a situation where resuscitation is required. Rather than a further hospital admission, they believe he should be made comfortable where he is.

The man had also expressed a desire he should not be sent to a general hospital should his condition deteriorate but doctors are concerned whether he has capacity to make decisions about his health and welfare.

They are also concerned that any decision against resuscitation should have a legal basis.

The matter will return to court in some weeks after the medical visitor has assessed the man and provided a report to the court.