03 June 2005


Health system let us down says family of suicide victim

On the day he committed suicide he asked if he could go back into hospital and was told that he couldn’t.

The parents of a young man who took his own life through suicide have been told by medical professionals there was a “breakdown in communications” between their son and the health system prior to his death.
Gerard and Carole McCartan discovered their son Danny (18) had hanged himself on April 11.
In the nine months leading up to his death he was prescribed nearly 3000 tablets to combat his depression and anxiety including anti-psychotic drugs and sleeping pills. At one stage he was taking 18 tablets a day ranging in strength from 5mg right up to 300 mg.
He had been self-harming for three years and had cut his face, legs and arms with blades. Then last August after several months of taking medication, he took an overdose.
On the day he committed suicide he asked if he could go back into hospital and was told that he couldn’t. Danny fled and that was the last time his parents saw him alive.
Gerard and Carole said they feel that the system has let them down and that there was a lack of information as to why their son was taking so many drugs.
At a meeting in the Mater Hospital last week with a leading psychiatric consultant and staff from North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust, Gerard and Carole McCartan, who believe that no one understood how urgent Danny’s situation was, were told that there was a “breakdown in communications”.
The McCartan family are now lodging an official complaint against the Mater Trust, North and West Belfast Trust and Knockbracken, a facility in South Belfast, which houses young mentally ill patients.
“The system completely failed us,” Gerard McCartan said.
“We had to be on top of things all the time. We had to chase so many people to get anything done and all the time people were passing the buck. Shifting him from pillar to post.
“And the worst thing was that he was never diagnosed with anything apart from general mental illness. They said to us we you can’t label him, he’s so young, well that’s all well and good but Danny wanted to know if he was schizophrenic or whatever.
“We got the impression they were holding information back all the time. Danny was in the system for eight months and we were never given an explanation of the drugs.
“They should have been more open with us. They knew themselves the implications of what drugs he was on. We didn’t. We tried to deal with this as best we could.”
The Mater Hospital issued a statement confirming that staff from North and West Belfast Trust and the Mater Hospital Trust met with Danny McCartan’s parents, “to discuss a range of issues following his death”.
“We will continue to meet with his parents to try and resolve any concerns they may have regarding his treatment. We wish to extend our sympathies to the parents of Danny McCartan at this very difficult time.”

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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