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Cancer patient left waiting on a hospital trolley in hallway discharged herself and later died, inquest told

The woman was left on a trolley for six hours beside the bins, her daughter said.

Image: Leavy Family

A 67-YEAR-OLD cancer patient discharged herself from hospital due to overcrowding and died four days later, an inquest heard.

Elizabeth Leavy from Montpellier Road, Dublin 7 was left waiting on a hospital trolley for six hours.

“She was left in the hallway beside the bins. She was afraid, in pain, uncomfortable and she was hallucinating. She couldn’t stick it,” the woman’s daughter Joy Leavy said.

Speaking after an inquest at Dublin Coroner’s Court, family members said they stayed with their mother all night in the Mater Hospital emergency department and were unaware her condition was so serious.

“We waited all night with her for test results and they told us she was okay. If we had of known they wanted to do more research we would’ve made her stay. She was left on a trolley in a hallway for six hours, a cancer patient, she’d had enough,” Joy Leavy said.

The mother-of-eight was strong-minded and a great role model, the family said.

“She was bubbly, fun, she saw the good in everyone and everything,” Joy Leavy said.

Mrs Leavy was diagnosed with oral and bowel cancer in 2017.

She died four days later after she was found unresponsive at home on the morning of January 22 2018.

The cause of death was cardio-respiratory arrest due to multi-drug toxicity. The woman had toxic levels of the opiate based pain medications Tramadol and Oramorph in her system, which had built up over time.

“These medications act centrally in the respiratory centre and it impedes your breathing. Your breathing stops and your heart stops and I think that is what happened that morning,” Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said.

A post-mortem report showed that the woman’s cancer was not active but she had chronic inflammation of the liver due to the accumulation of medications.

“The build-up of the medications in her system caused her death,” the coroner said, returning a verdict of misadventure.

Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Mater Hospital Dr Tomas Breslin said overcrowded conditions are not unusual.

“Overcrowded conditions bring a higher risk of dying. Every nurse and doctor knows this is a massive problem for patients, it affects their care and their outcomes,” he said.

“I reviewed [Mrs Leavy’s] notes in detail. There were questions we didn’t know the answer to and that would have been the reason for keeping her in the department.

“That being said, you can understand why, when there is no clear issue, a person would decide to leave,” Dr Breslin said.

The coroner returned a verdict of misadventure.

“She’d gone through a lot of treatment and seemed to be doing well. It’s very tragic, she obviously had a loving and attentive family,” the coroner said.

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Louise Roseingrave

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