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Young Belfast dad who overdosed on paracetamol at Munich stag party never got to see second child

By Staff Reporter

Published 01/09/2016

Dean McCullagh, who died following liver failure, on his graduation day
Dean McCullagh, who died following liver failure, on his graduation day

A man died following liver failure after an accidental overdose of paracetamol following a bout of heavy drinking at a stag party, an inquest has heard.

Dean McCullagh (30), a father of two from Mount Merrion, Belfast, never got to see his second child after his pregnant girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy, who is now 10 months old, the hearing was told.

He had been taking co-codamol tablets containing both paracetamol and codeine for back pain following a road traffic accident in 2013.

Mr McCullagh became critically unwell after returning from a stag party in Munich and, despite two emergency liver transplants, died a month later on April 24 last year.

His girlfriend, Lisa Fleming, told Dublin Cororner's Court that Mr McCullagh travelled to Munich with friends on March 19 last year.

He missed his flight home, but caught a later flight and she collected him from the airport on March 22.

"I could smell the alcohol off him," she said. "He had been drinking all weekend. He was talking about the beer tents that they had visited."

The following day, when she woke, she heard him in the bathroom being sick.

Mr McCullagh remained ill throughout the day, sleeping, eating little and being sick often, the inquest heard.

His condition deteriorated and when his breathing became laboured, the couple drove to the emergency department at Ulster Hospital.

Mr McCullagh told medical staff he had taken co-codamol tablets.

"He was probably taking them a bit more than he should have been - he told the doctors he thought he'd taken too many," Miss Fleming told the court.

Mr McCullagh had a prescription for co-codamol from his local GP, but his girlfriend said that he may have bought additional tablets over the counter on occasion.

Mr McCullagh was deemed to ill to fly and was moved to St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin on March 26 and placed on the "super-urgent" transplant list.

He underwent a liver transplant on March 29, but problems arose and a second transplant was performed on April 4.

His condition continued to deteriorate in the intensive care unit at St Vincent's Hospital.

Doctors noted pancreatic necrosis - the death of pancreatic tissue with associated bleeding - and he died two weeks later on April 24 2015.

The cause of death was system inflammatory response syndrome - a situation where the entire immune system is fighting to cope with illness - due to hemorrhaging necrotising pancreatitis, caused by liver failure, resulting from a combination of alcohol and paracetamol.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said the pathologist noted that the pancreas was damaged due to liver failure in addition to alcohol ingestion at the outset.

"The pancreas is a very important organ and it is closely connected with the liver," the coroner said. "This was a miscalculation," the coroner added, returning a verdict of death by misadventure.

Belfast Telegraph

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