herald

Saturday 19 August 2017

Hospital outpatient 'ate poison' before cutting his throat

Grief: Byrne's sister Olive. Photo: Collins
Grief: Byrne's sister Olive. Photo: Collins

A MAN who slashed his own throat in front of staff at a psychiatric hospital was already dying, having taken an unidentified caustic substance, an inquest heard.

Bernard Byrne (53) from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, died on March 3 last year, hours after he had to be subdued with pepper spray by gardai as he repeatedly cut his throat with a Stanley knife.

Medics subsequently discovered extensive and irretrievable necrosis in his stomach caused by a caustic substance.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard Mr Byrne suffered from delusions that made him believe his life was in danger. On the morning before his death, he was at a group session at St Davnet's Hospital in Monaghan, where he was an outpatient.

Clinical psychologist Attracta McGlinchey said she noticed Mr Byrne was not participating and he told her he was feeling dizzy and had a headache.

Shortly after, he started vomiting and she went to get help.

When she returned with a staff member, Mr Byrne had already cut his throat and started doing so again.

"We were pleading with him to stop. I thought he was going to die there and then," she said.

Gardai tried to calm Mr Byrne, but he responded by cutting himself on the arms and throat. Garda Ciaran Thornton described seeing Mr Byrne cutting at the open throat wound "in a saw-like motion".

He then used pepper spray on Mr Byrne, at which point he released his grip on the knife.

Mr Byrne was taken to Cavan General Hospital, where it was discovered that he had a perforation in his stomach.

He was transferred to Beaumont Hospital, where he died the following morning.

Pathologist Dr Susan Prenderville said the knife wounds did not contribute to his death.

Caustic

The incident was investigated by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission. Senior investigating officer Jon Leeman said use of pepper spray was appropriate in the circumstances.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell noted that while the evidence indicated that Mr Byrne died as a result of ingesting a caustic substance, it had not been possible to establish what the substance was, when he took it or if he meant to take his own life.

The jury returned an open verdict.

hnews@herald.ie

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