A 72-year-old man with an intellectual disability was malnourished and severely dehydrated prior to his death at the Áras Attracta care centre in Mayo, an inquest has heard.
Francis ‘Albert’ Loughney died at Mayo University Hospital on November 18, 2012, 12 hours after being admitted from the care facility located in Swinford.
Concerns in relation to the death of Mr Loughney were raised by consultant pathologist Tomas Nemeth after he observed evidence of “severe dehydration and malnutrition” on the body.
“It was not usual for a patient in care and it concerned me,” Dr Nemeth told Mayo Coroner’s Court in Castlebar yesterday.
He identified the cause of death as sepsis due to acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and early bronchopneumonia with severe contributing factors of extreme dehydration and malnutrition.
However, coroner Patrick O’Connor returned a verdict of death by natural causes after hearing evidence of a long history of issues with eating, including self-induced vomiting and paranoia about food.
Mr Loughney had been a resident at Áras Attracta since 1999. He had previously experienced physical abuse at an industrial school until the age of 16, and then lived with relatives for a long period until entering care in the 1990s.
He was one of five siblings from Crossmolina, Co Mayo, none of whom had married and all five of whom are now deceased.
Ann Burns, programme director at Áras Attracta, described the deceased as a “small, thin man” who had needed close monitoring and encouragement in relation to eating, particularly when he was in a low mood.
The inquest heard that he would rarely eat a complete meal, and disliked eating with the other residents. He always tended to spit out any lumpy foods and, in 2000, 24 episodes of self-induced vomiting had been documented.
Three days before Mr Loughney was admitted to hospital, he was suspected to have bronchitis and chest problems. He was prescribed antibiotics by a doctor without any medical examination.
Asked if this practice was acceptable, Ms Burns replied: “I wouldn’t say it was acceptable. However, you have to work within the resources available.”
Maura Loftus, cousin of the deceased and his next of kin, told the inquest that Mr Loughney had tried to tell her something on her last visit before he died, but he was too weak to communicate.
“The last time I spoke to Albert, he was distressed,” said Ms Loftus.
She told the inquest she had never been told about issues with her cousin’s diet.
Professor Cillian Twomey, a retired geriatrician who carried out a report on Mr Loughney’s death for the DPP, commended the care that he had received at Áras Attracta.
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