Verdict in asthma death delivered after 27 years

A widow yesterday saw the final chapter close on a tragic night over 27 years ago when she witnessed her then 17-year-old only daughter die from an asthma attack after being rushed to a Limerick hospital.

The death of Juliet O’Connell, who attended the Salesian Secondary school in the city and lived at Santa Monica, North Circular Road, had been the subject of drawn-out litigation which went to the High Court.

Due to the circumstances of her death, the Attorney General asked the Co Clare coroner, Isobel O’Dea, to conduct an inquest. That was held yesterday.

Juliet died on the night of Oct 11, 1984 after she was taken to the then public Barrington’s Hospital, suffering an asthma attack. Juliet had previously been treated at the hospital for asthma.

In a statement given after the death, the girl’s mother, Joan O’Connell, made allegations about Juliet’s treatment by medical staff and claimed she experienced difficulties when trying to communicate with those attending her daughter.

These allegations were denied in statements given by medical staff at the hospital.

Nurse Bernadette Moynihan, in a statement given on Nov 6, 1984, said she was a staff nurse in Barrington’s when Juliet was admitted. She knew Juliet as she had been treated by them on previous occasions.

Ms Moynihan said the doctor treating Juliet, Dr Lal Bahadur Mandal, had to plead with Mrs O’Connell to allow him give Juliet an intravenously administered drug. After about 25 minutes, Mrs O’Connell agreed.

Dr Mandal travelled from England for the hearing and the coroner, on a submission by his solicitor, Geraldine Hickey, rejected a claim by Mrs O’Connell that he was not properly qualified at the time.

The coroner, in her summing up, said it was a very difficult case, compounded by the passage of time and the fact that some people who were involved had died or could not attend.

Ms O’Dea said certain evidence could not be examined fully as there were witnesses not present to be cross examined. Some evidence was hearsay and could not be established.

She added: “Barrington’s [public] hospital is no longer with us and it is a great pity so many people are not here who we can fully listen to and hear.”

The coroner expressed the hope there would be some element of closure for Mrs O’Connell.

The jury returned a verdict that Juliet died from cardio-respiratory failure, due to an obstruction of an airway, consistent with an asthmatic attack.

The jury foreman extending his sympathy, saying: “We hope Mrs O’Connell can now go forward with a peaceful mind.”

More in this section