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Woman choked on food given in 'act of kindness'

AN ELDERLY woman choked to death on a jumbo sausage after an "act of kindness" by a carer went tragically wrong, an inquest heard.

Angela O'Sullivan (87) from Kilnamanagh Road in Walkinstown, Dublin 12, was given the sausage by a carer at Cherry Orchard Hospital on May 3 last year. Staff tried to clear her airway several times to no avail.

Her death prompted the HSE to review guidelines on the provision of non-hospital food to patients at Cherry Orchard.

Mrs O'Sullivan had been a resident of the hospital for almost four years and was suffering from dementia at the time of her death. The court heard that she had been having trouble eating and drinking.

On the day of her death, Mrs O'Sullivan was sitting at the nurses' station when carer Carol Mulligan came back from her lunch break.

Ms Mulligan had bought curry chips and a jumbo sausage for her own lunch but did not have time to eat it.

She told the court that Mrs O'Sullivan smelled the food and reached out for it.

Ms Mulligan was aware that Mrs O'Sullivan had not eaten much that day, and that staff had been trying to get her to eat more, so she decided to give her lunch to the deceased.

Gasping

Later, Mrs O'Sullivan was seen gasping for breath. Nursing staff gave her the Heimlich manoeuvre and a piece of sausage was exhaled. She continued to struggle to breathe.

Dr Seamus O'Dea said that on attending the scene he removed another large piece of sausage.

However, Mrs O'Sullivan continued to deteriorate and attempts at resuscitation failed. "It was an act of kindness that went tragically wrong," he said.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

Irish Independent