Limerick psychiatric patient challenges detention

A psychiatric patient was escorted from a hospital yesterday after a judge ruled that his appeal against involuntary detention in an acute mental health unit should be heard in a court and not at the hospital.

The patient at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) was appealing a decision of a mental health tribunal which decided last month his involuntary detention in hospital was necessary.

The tribunal, which sat at UHL, found the patient was at serious risk to himself or others, that he was seriously ill, and that failure to admit him to psychiatric care was likely to lead to a serious deterioration in his condition.

After Judge Tom O’Donnell said the appeal should be heard at Limerick Circuit Court and not at the hospital, the patient was brought from UHL.

When the appeal opened, solicitor for the HSE, Muiris Gavin, said UHL consultants were of the view that it would be unsafe for the patient and public for him to attend court. He said a room could be made available in the hospital for the hearing.

Aoife Counihan, for the Mental Health Tribunal, said the president of the Circuit Court had expressed the wish that involuntary mental health patients should be present at their appeals.

Dolph McGrath, solicitor for the patient, said he had visited him alone yesterday at the hospital and was allowed meet him without any other person in attendance and it was deemed safe for him to do so. Mr McGrath said it was necessary for the patient to give evidence at the appeal hearing as he did not accept he suffered from a mental illness.

Judge O’Donnell said he did not wish to proceed with the hearing in the hospital, as he felt it should be heard in a neutral venue and a court was suich a venue.

In evidence, after an adjournement, the patient said he was admitted to hospital on December 16, 2015. He denied he suffered from a psychiatric illness and wished to leave the hospital. He said he would continue to take his medication if allowed out of hospital and felt well.

Shiela Tighe, consultant psychiatrist, said if the patient was discharged, he would present a risk to others and his condition would deteriorate The patient, she said suffered from schizophrenia, psychosis, and had delusional beliefs.

Due to his delusional beliefs, he claimed another male patient was his father and a female patient was his wife. There were aggressive episodes when he claimed other male patients were with the patient he claimed was his wife.

Last Saturday, he assaulted a hospital visitor, claiming this man, who he did not know, had had sexual relations with the patient he believed to be his wife. His aggression had also been directed towards members of staff. He had one-to-one nursing care at all times and was on high dosages of anti-psychotic medication.

Judge O’Donnell dismissed the patient’s appeal against his involuntary detention saying in his opinion this man was at this time suffering from a mental disorder.

A mental health tribunal can make an order for a psyhiatric patient to be detained involuntarily for 21 days and consists of a lawyer, a consultant psychiatist from a hospital other than where the patient is treated, and a lay person. An initial order for 21 days can be extended by a tribunal under the 2001 Mental Health Act.

Appeals are heard by the circuit court.


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