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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Dominic died 'four days after being turned away from psychiatric care'

Gareth Naughton

Published 28/08/2014 | 12:56

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Dominic Kiernan

THE brother of a man who died in unexplained circumstances four days after he had begged to be taken into psychiatric care but was refused because of cutbacks has called for more funding in mental health.

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Rory Kiernan was speaking after an open verdict was returned at the inquest into the death of his brother Dominic Kiernan from Bolbrook Villas, Tallaght, Dublin 24. The 45-year-old was found dead in the front garden of his father’s home at Maplewood Park in Tallaght on June 25 last year.

The cause of death remains undetermined despite a forensic autopsy and two toxicology screens being carried out.

Mr Kiernan had a long history of mental illness having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was being treated through Southwest HSE psychiatric services in Tallaght. He was attended regularly by a home care team. 

Dublin Coroner’s Court had heard that four days before his death, Mr Kiernan took an overdose and attempted to slit his wrists. He pleaded to to be taken into a permanent facility but was told that he would not meet the criteria “because of cutbacks”.

Following his death, the family launched a campaign to reinstate funding for mental health services in the Tallaght area. Speaking outside the court, Rory Kiernan said that his brother had been fine for 15 years when he could regularly access psychiatric facilities but this was taken away.

“Dominic needed full time care for a while until he got himself back on the straight and narrow and then put back out in the community. That has been taken away because of cutbacks. He used to go into Loman’s for a few weeks, he was in a half-way house for a time. He came out and for about 15 years he was fine. It worked for him but that has all been cut back now. That just wasn’t there anymore,” he said.

He called on the Government to reverse cutbacks and put more resources into mental health.

“The health services are being cut back to the bone and mental health services really are the Cinderella of the health world,” he said.

The cause of Dominic Kiernan’s death remains undetermined. Deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis carried out the post-mortem after concerns were raised about marks on his neck and arms. However, he told the Dublin coroner that the marks were consistent with self-harm and there was no definite evidence of an assault. “Certainly, if he had been assaulted, it had not led to his death,” he said.

An initial toxicology screen found below therapeutic levels of valproic acid, a drug prescribed for Mr Kiernan’s Parkinsonism, and no alcohol present. Dr Curtis said that he requested a further screen be carried out for “unknown substances” but this came back negative. “The cause of death has, therefore, not been determined,” he said.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that he had no reason to believe that the death was “unnatural”. He had spoken to the State Laboratory regarding the toxicology screens, he told the family, and they can do no more on it. In the absence of a cause of death, he returned an open verdict.

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