Belfast Telegraph

Inquest clears Prison Service and trust over inmate's cancer death

By Claire O'Boyle

The inquest into the death of a reclusive inmate at Maghaberry has found the Prison Service and health trust did nothing to cause or contribute to his death.

Samuel Alexander Smyth passed away in December 2013, less than a month after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

The inquest heard how 56-year-old Mr Smyth, known as Alec, was a "difficult" and "stubborn" character and had a history of failing to engage with prison authorities.

Living an increasingly isolated existence in his last months with just his budgies for company in his cell on the loyalist wing, the inquest heard Mr Smyth missed a number of key appointments which may have picked up his illness at an earlier stage.

By the time it was found, the disease had spread to his lymph nodes and brain.

The jury at the inquest concluded there had been no "error or omission" on the part of either the Prison Service or the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust which caused or contributed to the death of Mr Smyth, who was sentenced to life in in 1978 for double murder.

After a brief release in the 1990s he returned to Maghaberry following an incident with family.

Mr Smyth presented to the prison healthcare team in late 2012 with a cough and was prescribed a simple linctus.

This treatment was prescribed five times before the prisoner was seen by a GP in April 2013 after complaining about soreness and hoarseness in his throat.

Another GP sent Mr Smyth for an X-ray, which the prisoner refused to attend. Mr Smyth also failed to attend a 'red flag' referral to a specialist on July 2, 2013.

However, the jury said there was no evidence of the appointment actually having been made or of the prisoner being told about it.

Mr Smyth was not seen again by a GP until November 1 and it was only discovered on November 19 that the urgent 'red flag' referral had been missed.

Three days later, after another urgent ENT appointment, Mr Smyth was told he had lung cancer. He was admitted to hospital on December 3, 2013 where doctors concluded his cancer was not operable and further treatment was not appropriate.

After a period of palliative care, he died less than two weeks later on December 18, 2013.

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