High Court orders new inquest into death of male cosmetic-surgery patient

The High Court has ruled that a fresh inquest be held into the death of a Dublin man who died while undergoing cosmetic surgery in Colombia.

In a judgement today, the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns quashed the open verdict returned at the inquest into Pierre Christian Lawlor's death, and ordered that a new inquest take place.

The judge said that Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty should have agreed to Mr Lawlor's family's request to adjourn the July 2008 inquest into his death given the "unusual and tragic" circumstances involved. The adjournment had been sought to see if medical notes from Columbia could be obtained.

Mr Lawlor (aged 33,) of Belarmine Place, Stepaside, but originally from Lucan Co Dublin, died on September 3, 2007 at the Centro Colomblade Cirugia Plastica in Bogota, Colombia, while undergoing plastic surgery on his face and torso.

He was holidaying in Colombia with his wife Andrea Galleana (aged 26) and their young son Zachary, when he arranged to undergo the operation. His wife claimed that Christian consumed cocaine and alcohol in the days prior to undergoing the procedures, despite being told by the clinic not to take such substances 48 hours before surgery.

An inquest into his death was held in July 2008 which returned an open verdict.

However Mr Lawlor's family's argued that the inquest was flawed because the coroner refused to adjourn it due to the absence at that time of the Colombian clinic's medical notes, which they claim were vital in order to determin the cause of death, concerning Christian.

Christian's parents Tom and Margaret Lawlor, sought orders quashing Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty's decision of July 1, 2008 to refuse to adjourn the inquest.

They claimed the coroner was wrong to refuse the adjournment because medical notes from the clinic were the surgery were not available to experts including the State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy. Those notes were made available a month later.

Dr Geraghty opposed the application, and claimed that at all times he acted properly and judicially. He claimed that the notes would not have made a difference and that after making inquiries was informed that the medical notes would not be available for the inquest.

In his judgement Mr Justice Kearns said that the refusal to grant the adjournment was disproportionate and and inappropriate and that there was no overwhelming need to conclude the inquest forthwith. The judge said that this was a highly unusual case which raised matters that caused great distress to the Lawlor family.

The judge said that the Lawlor family had raised legitimate concerns and were in his view deprived of the opportunity of a meaningful participation in the inquest because of then non-availablilty of the hospital records.

He added that the coroner's refusal to grant the adjournment was based on the belief that clinic's notes could not have been obtained unless criminal proceedings were contemplated. This was not the case as the notes became available shortly after the inquest took place.

However Dr Geraghty, the judge added, should have adjourned the inquest to allow a reasonable opportunity to obtain those records and have them examined by a medical expert.

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