Published Date: 30 September 2008
By Sue Doherty
The family of a Buncrana man who knifed himself to death say they were left on their own after he discharged himself from hospital.
Social worker Miriam Killeeny gave evidence last Friday afternoon in Carndonagh at the inquest into the death of her ex-husband Paudie Taylor on January, 24.
She described how, after losing his job as a taxi driver, Mr Taylor began to drink very heavily and became increasingly anxious about his mental health.
He went missing on Christmas Eve and was found at Lisfannon the next day. Ms Killeney said he called into Buncrana Garda station on Christmas Eve, complaining of hearing voices, but “was not dealt with”. He told the family that he had intended to kill himself.
They brought him to Letterkenny General Hospital. Although staff were made aware of a history of mental health problems and suicide in Mr Taylor’s family, Ms Killeney believes they did not take this into account enough.
Mr Taylor was allowed to discharge himself on January 7.
“The psychiatric consultant told me that, by discharging himself, Paudie had ‘blotted his copybook’. I put it to him that Paudie needed to stay in the unit, until he was admitted to White Oaks. The consultant told me that he had carried out a psychiatric assessment on Paudie and he was ‘fit to be discharged.’
After leaving hospital, Mr Taylor stayed with friend Donnie MacNeill, stayed off drink and enrolled in AA.
Despite this, and attending a hour long screening interview at White Oaks on January 15, he was refused admission there on January 22.
“We were told this was because he was on medication for depression,” Ms Killeney said. [This was XANAX, see inquest report]
“They said this was against their policy, as they would not be equipped to deal with him if he collapsed because of this while in their care. They told us that he could be put on a different drug and he might be admitted the following Thursday.”
She brought Mr Taylor to the consultant the next day, who told her to bring him to the family GP and ask for Librium.
“I asked him to contact our family doctor to discuss all this in the context of Paudie’s family history but he said he did not want to contact our doctor directly. I did not feel it was my place to negotiate medication with a doctor.”
She described Mr Taylor’s state of mind as “highly distressed and agitated” at this stage. “He felt he was losing his mind.”
Dr Seamus O’Domhnaill, who saw Mr Taylor in Buncrana the same day, said: “I was the weak link in the chain. I regarded Paudie more as a friend and a patient and I don’t want this to happen again.”
He said he only received a letter from Letterkenny on February 18, although Mr Taylor had discharged himself on January 7. “The first I knew of Paudie’s family history was at the wake.”
Donnie MacNeill described how he found Mr Taylor on the kitchen floor, with one of Mr MacNeill’s chef’s knives protruding from his chest and two more lying next to him.
After further evidence from police experts, the jury returned a verdict of death by self-inflicted wound.
We’re adding a rider that there should be more co-operation between the medical authorities and support services,” the foreman also stated.
The coroner expressed his sympathies for Mr Taylor’s family. “We come across suicide far too often. The family may come to live with it, but they never get over it.
“There certainly seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking in cases like these. I myself had a similar problem with a patient on diazepam, though thankfully not with the tragic results we’ve seen here.
“I know Ms Killeney from her work in the social services. She is a very articulate woman, more articulate than most. And I also know Dr Seamie O’Domhnaill very well. If people like Miriam and Seamie can’t get the system to work for someone, then there is no hope for the rest of us.
“I am going to pass these depositions on to the relevant people and hope that they act on what they find. I will come back to you, Ms Killeney, when I hear from them.”