HSE seeks permission for DNA test to identify 'John Doe' in psychiatric hospital for 30 years

The judge was told a documentary maker had been in touch with a view to making a documentary in the hope of helping to establish his true identity.
HSE seeks permission for DNA test to identify 'John Doe' in psychiatric hospital for 30 years

The HSE want a sample taken while he is alive in order to address posthumous procedures. File photo: Anthony Devlin/PA

The HSE is seeking High Court permission to take a DNA sample from an unidentified vulnerable elderly man in a psychiatric hospital here for more than thirty years.

David Leahy BL, for the HSE, told High Court president Ms Justice Mary Irvine today the man is very old and not well and the gardaí and HSE want a sample taken while he is alive in order to address posthumous procedures.

The man is a ward of court and Ms Justice Irvine, who manages the court’s wardship list, said she will hear the application concerning a DNA test next month. There is an issue whether the sample should be taken posthumously, she indicated.

The judge was told a documentary maker had been in touch about the man’s case with a view to making a documentary in the hope of helping to establish his true identity. None of the parties involved in the man’s case consider a documentary is a good idea, she was told.

Having outlined details of the man’s medical history, including his having cardiac issues, Mr Leahy said the HSE wants to give evidence at next month’s hearing of the man's clinicians views concerning what should happen if a serious medical issue arises.

The man’s court-appointed guardian has said, notwithstanding his medical issues, the man comes across as being in “robust health”, the judge heard.

Brief history of unidentified man

Now believed to be in his late 80s or 90s, the man was first admitted to the psychiatric hospital after being taken there by gardaí in the mid 1980s.

He was reported to be living “a hermit’s life” and sleeping rough in a bus shelter with a dog whom he said he had “on loan”. He also referred to living in Dublin "for years".

At some point after his admission, he was given a name and estimated date of birth of 1930 but essentially remains a 'John Doe'.

Efforts to establish his true identity and to find next of kin had proven unsuccessful but were reactivated in recent years arising from advances in technology.

The man has a history of mental illness, along with physical health conditions.

Wardship

The wardship application was initiated last May because his physical health was deteriorating and he had had a number of hospital admissions.

His clinical team considered it would not be appropriate to resuscitate him should his condition deteriorate further to a situation where resuscitation is required.

Rather than a further hospital admission, they said he should be made comfortable where he is.

The man had expressed a desire not to be sent to a general hospital should his condition deteriorate but doctors were concerned whether he had capacity to make decisions about his health and welfare and that any decision against resuscitation should have a legal basis.

The court last May directed a medical doctor visit the man for the purpose of assessing his capacity and also appointed a guardian ad litem to represent him in the wardship matter.

Last September, the court was satisfied, on foot of the medical visitor's report and other medical evidence, the man lacks capacity and should be taken into wardship.

His guardian reported he had visited the man to seek his views but the man was incapable of giving expression to them. Although the man has no identified family, "he has made staff and other patients at the hospital his family" and the man is appropriately placed, the guardian considered.

When the guardian queried whether the man should be moved to some other hospital or to a nursing home, the nursing staff's eyes had "filled with tears", he added.

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