Call for release of records on man's death in psychiatric unit


THE HEALTH Service Executive (HSE) has refused to release all records concerning its own investigation into how a patient took his own life while in a high-observation area at an acute psychiatric unit.

Green Party councillor Brian Meaney, a member of the HSE West Forum, said last night that a redacted version of the report into the death should be published.

“We are talking here about someone who lost their life in a public facility and, to ensure public confidence in the high-support unit, the HSE report into the death should be published,” he said.

At an inquest into the death of the 60-year-old Shannon man at the Co Clare coroner’s court in April, the man’s brother questioned HSE staff as to why his late brother was not more closely observed in the acute psychiatric unit at the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Ennis, Co Clare.

At the coroner’s court, a jury found that the divorced father of one died due to self-inflicted asphyxiation in the high-observation area of the psychiatric unit on February 27th, 2011.

The inquest heard that the HSE carried out an internal investigation into the man’s death and adopted eight recommendations from the report.

At the inquest, the man’s twin brother asked psychiatric nurse John O’Connor: “If my brother was in such an agitated state, why wasn’t he being observed?”

In response, Mr O’Connor said: “He was being observed on an hourly basis. During my duties that day, we didn’t feel that your brother was of sufficient risk to increase observation levels.”

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request lodged with the HSE sought copies of any HSE-commissioned reports relating to the circumstances surrounding the man’s death and copies of internal and external correspondence concerning the incident.

The FOI response identifies 50 records that come under the scope of the request but access to all internal records has been refused.

The decision-maker in the case outlined the arguments in favour of and against releasing the information.

The decision-maker said that favouring release of the information was: the right of the public to have access to information; accountability of a public body; accountability of administrators; and scrutiny of decision-making.

However, the decision-maker was swayed by the arguments against release. These included: the release of the records could damage public confidence and affect staff; the effect the release of the information would have on current patients in the facility; that the release could have an adverse effect and disclose positions taken in some investigations; and the effect on individuals’ privacy.

The decision-maker said the public interest would not be served by releasing the records requested.