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Death Caused by Ruling Returned After Cancer Patient Discharged Herself from Hospital

A 67-year-old cancer patient passed away four days after she was allowed to discharge herself from the Mater Hospital due to overcrowding, the Coroner’s Court was informed in Dublin today.

Elizabeth Leavy from Montpellier Road, Dublin 7 discharged herself from the Mater Hospital after she found herself  waiting on a trolley for six hours. Family members remained alongside her all evening but they were not aware her condition was so serious.

The official inquest was told that Mrs Leavy’s death occurred due to cardio-respiratory arrest due to multi-drug toxicity. The woman displayed toxic levels of the opiate based pain medications Tramadol and Oramorph in her system, which had built up over time. A post-mortem report showed that her woman’s cancer was not active but she had chronic inflammation of the liver due to the accumulation of medications.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said during the inquest: “These medications act centrally in the respiratory centre and it impedes your breathing. Your breathing stops and your heart stops and I think that is what happened that morning. The build-up of the medications in her system caused her death.”

Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Mater Hospital Dr Tomas Breslin, describing the overcrowding at the hospital when Mrs Leavy was admitted, said: “Overcrowded conditions bring a higher risk of dying. Every nurse and doctor knows this is a massive problem for patients, it affects their care and their outcomes. I reviewed [Mrs Leavy’s] notes in detail. There were questions we didn’t know the answer to and that would have been the reason for keeping her in the department. That being said, you can understand why, when there is no clear issue, a person would decide to leave”.

A verdict of misadventure was returned by the coroner who said: “She’d gone through a lot of treatment and seemed to be doing well. It’s very tragic, she obviously had a loving and attentive family”.

Speaking following the inquest, Mrs Leavy’s daughter Joy said: “She was left in the hallway beside the bins. She was afraid, in pain, uncomfortable and she was hallucinating. She couldn’t stick it. We waited all night with her for test results and they told us she was okay. If we had of known they wanted to do more research we would’ve made her stay. She was left on a trolley in a hallway for six hours, a cancer patient, she’d had enough.

Her late Mother played the pivotal role and position in their family. Joy added: “She was bubbly, fun, she saw the good in everyone and everything.”

Mrs Leavy, a mother-of-eight, who was first diagnosed with oral and bowel cancer in 2017. She died, four days after she discharged herself from the hospital, on the morning of January 22 2018.


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