Monday 18 December 2017

Elderly woman died after choking on marshmallow

Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

AN ELDERLY woman died when she choked on a marshmallow that had been given to her by a visitor to a hospital, an inquest into her death has heard.

Mary Theresa Coffey (64) of Torc Terrace, Killarney, Co Kerry died in St Finan's Hospital in the town on March 27, after being given the marshmallow.


The South Kerry Coroner's Court heard that Ms Coffey, who was a long-term patient at the psychiatric hospital, had been eating the marshmallow in the recreational area following lunch when she started to gasp for air.

Staff at the hospital performed the Heimlich manoeuvre in an attempt to dislodge the sweet but it was unsuccessful.

They also attempted to remove the marshmallow from her throat by suction.

The jury at her inquest returned a verdict of accidental death caused by the impactation of food in her larynx.

Efforts to resuscitate her at the hospital also failed.

Marie O'Sullivan, the nurse in charge, told the inquest Ms |Coffey had been in “pleasant form” that morning at 8am and had eaten breakfast half an hour later.

She said she had suffered a fall but they were no injuries or abnormalities when she was examined.

At 12.30pm that afternoon she had eaten dinner and then went to the recreation area to relax.

Ms O'Sullivan told the inquest Ms Coffey was a “known high choking risk” but the person who gave her the sweet would not have been aware of this.

There were three nurses and one care assistant on duty at the time when she began to choke shortly after 1pm.

After attempting the Heimlich manoeuvre staff continued to perform CPR but Ms Coffey was pronounced dead by a local doctor at 2pm.


The inquest also heard that long-term patients in |psychiatric units can develop difficulties swallowing and |that Ms Coffey had a history of this.

South Kerry coroner Terence Casey said that it was outside the control of anyone that Ms Coffey had been given the sweet by someone who did not know of her condition.

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