Thursday 25 December 2014

Family was asked if dead dad wanted his dinner

Published 28/06/2014 | 02:30

Peter Tyndall, the Ombudsman for the HSE. Photo: Mark Condren

A FAMILY who donated three of their father's life-saving organs after his sudden death were horrified to find his body on a hospital mortuary slab "with nothing more than a sheet thrown over him".

The trauma was made worse by having to enter by a back door after being forced to pass rubbish and debris on a long walk to the mortuary.

They had expected the hospital to inform them after the organ harvesting was done they had to make contact themselves.

The family, who received an apology from the hospital, are among a number of relatives whose complaints to the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, are compiled in an "end-of-life" report to highlight the distress over their dying loved one's treatment in hospital.

Mr Tyndall said: "I hope these real-life experiences will make a positive contribution to the national debate on 'end-of-life' care and the campaign to make Ireland a good place to live in and to die in."

Other harrowing cases revealed:

  • A family had to grieve their father's death in a busy ward where the television was blaring and meals were served. At one point, a member of support staff pulled back the curtain around the bed and asked if their father wanted his dinner.
  • A woman who overheard two nurses talking about her brother's death, before she knew he had died in intensive care, began to hyperventilate with shock. A nurse told her abruptly to "stay calm as you are not helping anyone".
  • A family, whose father had pancreatic cancer, were not alerted when he became seriously ill. When they arrived at the hospital he was dead and they were brought to view his remains in a public ward during the night. The family became upset and were asked to leave as they were disturbing other patients.

Mr Tyndall said poor communication, overburdened staff and lack of proper facilities were common among complaints, but were no excuse for families being treated poorly.

The Irish Hospice Foundation urged people to have a "thoughtful conversation about death and dying in order to ensure the best possible end of life is achieved for all".

An RTE/Irish Hospice Foundation documentary, 'Way to Go – Death and the Irish', presented by broadcaster Norah Casey, who lost her husband Richard to cancer, will be broadcast at 9.35pm next Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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