Sunday 21 January 2018

Woman with intellectual disability (39) died after choking on sweet at day centre

St Vincent's Hospital
St Vincent's Hospital

Louise Roseingrave

Staff-to-client ratios and life-saving equipment at a Wicklow day service centre have been upgraded after a 39-year-old woman choked to death on a sweet

Denise Flahive, of Shanganagh Road, Shankill, had received the confectionery as a Kris Kindle gift and was eating them while making Christmas cards when she got into difficulty, an inquest was told.

She died at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin two days later.


The incident happened at a Sunbeam House Services facility for people with intellectual disabilities in Bray on December 16, 2015.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard Ms Flahive had got up from the table she was working at and gone to a kitchen sink where she brought up a sweet.

A staff member followed her and administered first aid in the form of back slaps.

Another member of staff arrived and continued with back slaps and abdominal thrusts but Ms Flahive's airway remained blocked.

She lost consciousness, stopped breathing and was put in the recovery position while an ambulance was called.

She was taken to the intensive care unit at St Vincent's but was pronounced dead at 23.23pm on December 18.

In a post-mortem report, Dr Ruth Law gave the cause of death as lack of oxygen to the brain due to cardiac and respiratory arrest following inhalation of a foreign body.

Ms Flahive's father, Peter Flahive, said his daughter had an intellectual disability but her general health was good and she was rarely ill.

He told the hearing that she attended the day service at Herbert Road in Bray most days.

"She was very productive and happy. She was outgoing and loved art, particularly painting," he said.

The managing director of Sunbeam House Services, John Hannigan, said a full independent investigation was conducted after the incident, and staff were commended for their high level of training.

However, it found that equipment needed updating and recommended staff-client ratio levels be addressed.

Mr Hannigan said all of the recommendations had since been implemented including the provision of a defibrillator. He said staff receive training updates in emergency care every two years.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

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