Family of man who died of dehydration in justice fight
Published 03/07/2013 | 05:00
THE family of a man who died in Tallaght Hospital after becoming increasingly dehydrated even as his wife begged nurses to give him water have said their fight for justice will continue.
Peter Acton (61), from St John's Grove in Clondalkin, Dublin, died on October 3, 2005, after he went into renal failure having been deprived of fluids over a five-hour period despite being diagnosed with dehydration on admission.
Mr Acton became so desperate for water that he begged his wife Lydia to take him home because he "did not want to die" in hospital.
At the conclusion of the inquest into his death at Dublin Coroner's Court yesterday, Tallaght Hospital apologised to the family and admitted negligence in his treatment.
However, speaking outside the court, his son-in-law John Burke said the family believed they still had not got justice.
Mr Acton was admitted to hospital suffering from double pneumonia with vomiting and dehydration on October 1, 2005. He was nil-by-mouth and on an intravenous drip – however, when this failed the following afternoon, it was five hours before a doctor replaced it.
As he became increasingly thirsty, his wife repeatedly asked nurses to give him fluids but was told they were waiting on a doctor to reinsert the drip. The court heard that the medical intern on call repeatedly failed to attend to Mr Acton when paged.Nurse Aoife Folliard said yesterday that resources were limited in the hospital at the time because it was a weekend.
Mr Acton subsequently went into renal failure. He died the following morning as a result of multi-organ failure due to sepsis caused by pneumonia.
Tallaght Hospital failed to report Mr Acton's death to the coroner and no post-mortem was carried out. The wrong cause of death was given for Mr Acton's death certificate.
Dublin Coroner Dr Brian Farrell agreed to hold the inquest after a seven-year campaign for an investigation by his family.
Counsel for the family, John Brennan, asked Dr Farrell to return a verdict of unlawful death in view of the manner of Mr Acton's treatment by the hospital. However, Dr Farrell said Irish law would not allow for such a verdict.
He gave a narrative verdict outlining the facts. He noted that there were several risk factors involved in Mr Acton's death including the failure to increase his fluid intake, the period when he was receiving no fluids at all and systemic issues at the hospital.
In the apology read out in court, Tallaght Hospital "unequivocally" accepted full responsibility for Mr Acton's "untimely death". "We also fully acknowledge that Mr Acton's death was due to negligence and in particular the failure to properly address the severity of his condition at the time, combined with the failure to respond to MrActon's deteriorating clinical situation thereafter," it stated.