Tragic patient overdosed on pills left near hospital bed

Jane Last

A STROKE patient took an overdose of ibuprofen after a nurse inadvertently left a box of tablets near his bed, an inquest has heard.

Noel Martin (62) was admitted to St James's Hospital in Dublin on June 22 last year following the onset of a stroke for which he received treatment.

He had a history of diabetes and heart problems and remained in hospital for weeks.

On August 20, 2010, Mr Martin took between 40 and 60 ibuprofen tablets after discovering a container at the end of the bed table. A nurse had given him two prescribed tablets for pain relief but accidentally left the box within view.

Nurse Sarah Murray returned to her station to start writing patient notes after giving him two tablets.

Minutes later she noted Mr Martin had pink saliva coming from the side of his mouth.

She initially thought it might have been because he had not swallowed the two tablets and approached him to check the situation. It was then she noticed that the tub, which she had previously closed, was open.

She asked the patient if he had taken the tablets, and he told her that he had. She then called another nurse to assist and contacted a doctor.

Mr Martin, of Mount Drummond, Harold's Cross, Dublin 6, developed a gastric bleed following the overdose and his warfarin anti-clotting medication was stopped, Dublin City Coroner's Court heard.

He suffered a further, more severe stroke three days later and died on September 14.


The issue on August 20 constituted a risk factor for a stroke, coroner Dr Brian Farrell said.

Recording a narrative verdict, the coroner said the cause of death was aspiration pneumonia, complicating a previous stroke.

Nurse Murray told the inquest that she forgot to pick up the tub with the remaining tablets and inadvertently left it at the end of the bed table.

"I regret this inadvertence on my part, which resulted in the tub being left accessible to the patient," she said.

Speaking from the body of the court, Mr Martin's daughter, Sinead, said the family felt if he had not taken the tablets, he would still have had a stroke.