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Psychiatrist to be investigated over woman's death

DON LAVERY THE Irish Medical Council is to be asked to investigate the actions of Galway psychiatrist Professor Thomas Fahy in a tragic case where a woman killed herself and her two daughters by driving her car off a pier.

Professor Fahy, a former head of the psychiatric unit at University College Galway, admitted liability in the High Court last week when he was sued by the dead woman's husband, Mr Roy Palmer, for negligence.

Mr Palmer's wife Catherine, 47, who was treated by Professor Fahy, killed herself and their two daughters Jennifer, 9, and Louisa, 6, when their car was driven off Ballindeereen Pier, Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in March 2000.

Similar High Court proceedings against the Western Health Board were struck out in the High Court. Professor Fahy had earlier withdrawn his denial of liability.

Yesterday, Mr Palmer said he had instructed his solicitor to refer the papers in the case to the Irish Medical Council in relation to Professor Fahy.

His belief was that if someone was found guilty of negligence, they were obliged to examine the matter and report on it.

The court had been told that Mrs Palmer had been admitted to a psychiatric unit under the care of Professor Fahy for a week. But to the consternation of her husband she was released and no system was put in place for monitoring her condition.

Mr Palmer said his wife had been suffering from a physical illness, thyroiditis, which was not diagnosed until her post-mortem examination and she had believed that she was fatally ill as well as her two daughters.

"She was clearly mentally ill. The awful part of it was that had she remained alive she would have been fully diagnosed and treatable," he said.

He said his own view was that questions remained regarding the training and procedures of consultants in relation to child care aspects of such cases.

"My belief is he accepted liability because of the overwhelming evidence. We had lined up three leading professors of psychiatry, and two professors of social care when the case was settled."

Mr Palmer was awarded ?110,000 in the case and he donated the money to charities dealing with mental health, women's health and children's care.