The High Court has awarded €263,000 in damages to the husband of a woman who took her own life after being discharged from UHG for taking an overdose of pills.
Angelo Cloonan sued the HSE and Dr. Kishan Browne for negligence, claiming that they had not properly assessed his wife Josephine’s suicide risk when they discharged her.
Mrs. Cloonan had been admitted to University Hospital Galway on April 17, 2011 where she admitted to taking an overdose of prescribed medication.
She was seen by Dr. Browne, a psychiatrist who was working as a registrar at UHG at the time, and was discharged on April 18.
Her body was found in her home in Ballinfoyle the next day.
According to the Irish Times, Mr. Justice Michael Hanna said that Josephine “was not afforded a proper standard of care,”
He continued that if she had been admitted as an inpatient rather than being discharged then she, “probable she would not have taken her own life in the early hours of the morning of April 19th.”
The court heard that in the 18 months prior to this, Josie had suffered from depression related to a Garda investigation into allegations of sexual abuse from when she was a child.
She had already attempted to take her own life on a prior occasion.
Mr. Cloonan said that the defendants acted negligently in not keeping her at the hospital instead of sending her home after her overdose.
The defendants said that the appropriate risk assessment, diagnosis, and treatment took place with Mrs. Cloonan, and that their actions were in line approved psychiatric practice.
They further argued that Mrs. Cloonan was offered in-patient care, but declined.
However, the judge said that Dr. Browne had been “over optimistic” in his assessment of Mrs. Cloonan’s risk of further self-harm.
In his judgement he also said that Dr. Browne had placed too much reliance on an interview with Mrs. Cloonan where she said she didn’t want in-patient treatment, and failed to make appropriate inquires with her GP.
“A medical practitioner appropriately informed, as a matter of probability, would have persuaded Mrs Cloonan to remain as an in-patient in the hospital,” the judge said.
Referring to expert witness for the defence Professor Patricia Casey, he said there was no reason to believe that with appropriate care and the support of her family Josephine could not have overcome her difficulties.
The court found that the defendants had been negligent and Mr. Cloonan was entitled to €263,000 in damages. A claim for damages for mental distress by the plaintiff was denied.
The case will come back before the court in October for final orders.