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Inquiry urged into death of man left paralysed in mental health ward stabbing

Published 15/01/2016

James McGrane died eight months after a stabbing in a mental health ward
James McGrane died eight months after a stabbing in a mental health ward

The family of a patient who died eight months after a stabbing in a mental health ward have demanded to know why health chiefs have not completed an inquiry into his death.

James McGrane, from College Park, Terenure, Dublin was being treated for depression in the Rowan Ward of Tallaght Hospital when he was left paralysed when his spine was severed in the attack on May 11 2010.

The 73-year-old died the following January in St Vincent's Hospital following a heart attack, which led to sepsis and pneumonia.

Lawyers for the McGrane family said medical experts said these were a result of the paralysis.

The unnamed patient who attacked Mr McGrane was suffering paranoid schizophrenia and had a history of violence but came into the ward unchecked and with a kitchen knife.

Following an inquest at Dublin Coroner's Court, a jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

Mr McGrane's daughter, Audrey O'Farrell, said the evidence of her father's death showed huge room for improvement in the safety and security of patients in psychiatric hospitals.

"My father expressed fears for his safety to our family and staff while he was a patient in the hospital," she said.

"What happened to him was entirely preventable and could have been avoided, if effective measures had been in place and proper procedures followed.

"It is especially worrying that the procedures in place at the time do not appear to have been updated or improved in any meaningful way since my father was attacked."

The inquest jury recommended all psychiatric hospitals review procedures for day leave patients.

Ms O'Farrell said the family were extremely unhappy that health chiefs have not completed an investigation into the death five years on.

"No satisfactory explanation has ever been given to my family for this," she said.

Mr McGrane's family said their father was a voluntary patient and they want an independent investigation into his death.

"The inquest process, while important, is extremely limited in scope," Ms O'Farrell said.

"There is an obligation on the State to carry out a proper investigation into this case so that a full analysis of the facts can be carried out and appropriate lessons learned."

Ms O'Farrell said the Health Service Executive (HSE) were unable and unwilling to examine the case.

"Their approach has consistently been one of delay and concealment. My family and I have no confidence in the HSE as an organisation capable of investigating serious incidents in hospitals in anything like an effective manner," she said.

Lawyers for the McGrane family claimed an internal investigation by the HSE was commissioned in 2010 but discontinued on a date unknown and for reasons unknown.

In response the HSE said it will fully consider the findings of the inquest and the jury's recommendations.

"The HSE has commissioned a full review of the incident and will be linking in with all concerned parties.," it said.

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