Saturday 22 October 2016

Triple-tragedy mum wants right to access children's records


Thomas, Jonathan and Patrick O'Driscoll
Thomas, Jonathan and Patrick O'Driscoll
Thomas and Helen O'Driscoll at the inquest into the death of their three sons in Cork

A MOTHER who lost three sons to an horrific murder-suicide has called for changes to medical confidentiality rules.

Helen O'Driscoll believes that parents have the right to know about the detailed mental health problems of their adult children who are still resident at home.

Her plea came as details emerged of the triple tragedy on September 4 last when her eldest son, Jonathan (21), launched a frenzied knife attack on nine-year-old twin brothers, Patrick 'Paddy' and Thomas 'TomTom', at the family's Deerpark home in Charleville, Co Cork.

Each twin suffered more than 40 stab wounds in the unprovoked attack, which occurred shortly after Jonathan had collected them from school.

The boys' parents, Helen and Thomas, were away that day buying a miniature caravan for the twins' impending birthday in November.

A Cork coroner's inquest heard that Jonathan may have pre-planned the attack.

Minutes after stabbing the twins, Jonathan drove to an isolated forest outside Buttevant, some 20km away, and took his own life.

He left five notes, three of which were found on his body and in his car, the contents of which Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy described as "quite disturbing".

Two knifes were found by gardai in the River Awbeg, just metres from his body. It emerged that Jonathan had a history of mental health problems including paranoia, depression and psychosis.

Many of his mental health issues dated from a car accident in November 2012.

However, he never exhibited homicidal inclinations.

Jonathan had stopped taking his medication several days before the tragedy.

Helen revealed she didn't know the true scale of her adopted son's mental health struggles - and was not aware of the nature of his medications.

"If adult children are staying with their parents, I think their parents have the right to know if they are suffering with some sort of a [mental health] problem," Helen said.

"At least the parents can be aware of that and they know to look out more clearly for what is going on."

Because Jonathan was an adult, his health data was confidential.

"If you don't know what the problem is or what medication they are taking, you don't know what is going to happen day-to-day.

"I think the family have a right to know, if the adult child is living at home."

Helen told the Herald she was "totally shocked" by the number of medications her son Jonathan was on.

Some of the medication courses had never been fully completed.

"I found a lot of tablets after Jonathan had passed away, God speed him.

"He seemed to be on a lot of tablets. But his inquest heard that it was reckoned he hadn't taken any medication at all for about a week before it happened."


The Cork inquest jury said that both medical professionals and the O'Driscoll family had done everything they possibly could to help the troubled young man.

Helen's plea for greater resources for mental health care and greater family involvement echoed previous calls from other Irish mothers who lost children to murder-suicides.

There have been repeated calls for greater involvement of families in mental health care treatment regimes and better research into the problem of murder-suicide.

Since 2000, there have been more than 30 cases in Ireland with more than 40 children dying, one of the highest such rates in the world.

A major conference in Italy found that, in many cases, mental health problems were a key factor.

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