Patient could have swallowed spoon 10 days before he died
A man with severe learning disabilities who died after swallowing a spoon at a Northern Ireland hospital may have ingested the utensil up to 10 days before he died, an inquest has heard.
Martin Lagan (52) had been an inpatient on the Molylena Ward at Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim since 2006, the hearing in Belfast was told.
Mr Lagan died on August 13, 2015, after swallowing a teaspoon which perforated his small intestine.
Pathologist Dr Charlotte Randall, giving evidence via video link, said a post-mortem revealed Mr Lagan had suffered from acute peritonitis, a life-threatening condition.
She said: "Examination revealed a hole or perforation through the wall of the small intestine which has been caused by the handle of a metal teaspoon and this had allowed bowel contents to leak into the normal sterile environment of the abdominal cavity.
"Ultimately, it was the result of him swallowing this foreign object and its consequences, which has resulted in his death."
John Kearney, representing the Lagan family, asked whether it was possible to say when Mr Lagan swallowed the spoon.
He added: "The family cannot understand how a spoon could have been ingested by Martin whilst in the care of the Trust. They find it very difficult to understand how that happened."
The pathologist said it was impossible to estimate when Mr Lagan swallowed the spoon, adding that it could have been anywhere between one and 10 days. The inquest previously heard Mr Lagan had a special level of supervision during meal times, meaning a nurse was always within arm's reach of him and that he was fed by a nurse with a spoon.
Dr Karen Humphries, consultant psychiatrist at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, in a statement read to the inquest, said Mr Lagan had been an inpatient at the hospital from 1967 to 2005, before being readmitted in 2006.
She added that Mr Lagan had autistic spectrum disorder, presumed schizophrenia, psychogenic vomiting, epilepsy and that he exhibited a range of challenging behaviours.
Asked whether Mr Lagan would have had an opportunity to get a spoon from the kitchen on the ward, she said: "For Martin to have made his way to the kitchen, without being observed, would not be likely."
Mr Lagan's brother, Michael, said he had visited his brother most Sundays and that they would go for drives in the car. He added that there would have been no opportunity for him to get a spoon during these trips.
Coroner Suzanne Anderson said the cause of death was acute peritonitis due to perforation of the small intestines due to a swallowed teaspoon.
She said it was "a very shocking and distressing event for everyone involved".