Tuesday 24 April 2018

Homeless man died in prison due to alcohol withdrawal, inquest hears

Cloverhill Prison in west Dublin
Cloverhill Prison in west Dublin

Louise Roseingrave

A homeless man with a chronic drink problem died due to alcohol withdrawal after being sent to prison.

Mr Josef Gembicky (58) died in hospital on June 13 2015, two weeks after he was committed to Cloverhill Prison for breach of bail conditions. He slept rough at North Lotts, a lane off Bachelor’s Walk and his behaviour became the subject of a number of complaints.

The man, from Eastern Europe, was charged with a number of public order offences in May 2015, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

On May 30 he was remanded in custody at Dublin District Court for breach of bail conditions which included staying sober and staying away from the North Lotts area in Dublin.

The man was assessed on arrival at Cloverhill Prison where staff were unaware of his history of alcohol addiction.

A prison nurse told the court the man did not indicate any previous psychiatric or medical condition. She said his English was limited and he had problems filling in a ‘very detailed’ questionnaire. In an interview with the prison doctor the day after his arrival in prison, the man denied a history of alcoholism. Asked if had understood the question, the doctor said he felt their communication was ‘sufficient.’

On June 2 the prisoner was found unwell in his cell. He symptoms were described as 'typical picture of alcohol withdrawal' and he was given Librium. He regained consciousness but suffered a seizure and was rushed to Tallaght Hospital. He died in hospital ten days later.

The cause of death was pneumonia due to brain damage due to epileptic seizures due to alcohol withdrawal, with inhalation of vomit as a contributory factor.

The nurse officer who gave the man Librium said his body went into shock due to withdrawal from alcohol and he developed seizures as a result.

The jury returned a verdict of misadventure and recommended that the Irish Prison Service review the effectiveness of the exchange of information in relation to prior alcohol dependence on committal.

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