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SeanCarnahan's mum tells inquest son starved to death in Belfast City Hospital

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 27/09/2016

Tracy Carnahan with a picture of her son, Sean Paul
Tracy Carnahan with a picture of her son, Sean Paul

The mother of a tragic young chef told an inquest she believes he was starved to death during a prolonged stay in hospital.

Sean Paul Carnahan, from Beechmount Grove in west Belfast, died in July 2013 - five months after he was admitted to Belfast City Hospital with a severe brain injury.

Belfast Coroner's Court was told the 22-year-old weighed just 32kg when a post-mortem examination was carried out.

In a statement, his mother Tracey Carnahan said: "I found I was fighting daily with the staff in order for my son to be fed."

Mr Carnahan was taken into hospital in March 2013 after a failed suicide attempt. He spent a month in the intensive care unit (ICU) before being transferred to a respiratory ward.

While Mrs Carnahan had no concerns about the care in the ICU, she alleged there were delays in re-attaching dislodged feeding tubes while he was on the ward. "Over Easter I do not think he was fed or hydrated properly," she added.

Mrs Carnahan also claimed the respiratory ward medics were ill-equipped to deal with her son's complex needs, which included severe agitation and difficulty swallowing.

She claimed staff were "dismissive" of her concerns and that allegations of malnourishment were put to a social worker during a meeting on the ward.

Giving evidence from the witness box, Mrs Carnahan described her son as an aspiring young footballer who had worked in restaurants across Belfast. He also spent a year on Guernsey, she said.

He tried to take his life hours after returning from a house party in west Belfast where he had abused alcohol and legal highs, it emerged.

Wiping away tears, Mrs Carnahan said she had been unaware of the dangers of legal highs and did not believe her son wanted to die.

"I just think it was a moment of madness," she said. "I just think he did not know what he was doing."

According to medical records Mr Carnahan weighed 74kgs on admission to hospital but by the time a post-mortem examination was carried out, his weight had fallen to 32 kilos.

A neuro-pathologist who examined Mr Carnahan attributed death to bronchopneumonia due to ischaemic brain injury as a result of his failed suicide bid.

Dr Brian Herron said death from pneumonia would have been a likely outcome, regardless of weight.

Meanwhile, ward sister Lesley Carroll said the level of agitation meant it was difficult to feed Mr Carnahan, but that every effort was made to help him.

Coroner Joe McCrisken described the five-day inquest as a fact-finding inquiry aimed at establishing the truth.

The hearing resumed today.

Belfast Telegraph

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