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Open verdict at inquest into death of Dunboyne woman

Tuesday, 27th November, 2012 9:30am
Open verdict at inquest into death of Dunboyne woman

The late Anna Byrne.

Open verdict at inquest into death of Dunboyne woman

The late Anna Byrne.

By Paul Walsh

An open verdict was returned at the inquest into the death of a pregnant Dunboyne woman at the Coroner's Court on Monday the 19th of November.

Anna Byrne (35) from Beechdale in Dunboyne and her unborn twin sons were killed at Howth summit in the early hours of 8th March this year.

Anna's husband Terry Byrne informed the court that he first became aware she was missing at 1.30pm when she failed to pick up their son from Montessori school. Mr Byrne checked the supermarket and maternity hospitals and rang around her friends. At 3.30pm Gardaí in Dunboyne were notified. Just after midnight a friend found Mrs Byrne's car at Howth summit.

A search and rescue operation followed but was called off at 3.30am without success. At 7.49am, an object was spotted at the base of the cliff and rescue workers were lowered down to recover the body.

Death was pronounced at Howth Lifeboat Station and the attending doctor said that Mrs Byrne had been dead for eight to ten hours. The postmortem gave the cause of death as multiple injuries due to a fall from a height.

Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith told the court that Mrs Byrne did not indicate a history of depression when she registered the pregnancy with the hospital; however, this information was contained in notes related to her previous pregnancies.

It emerged in court that six days before her death Mrs Byrne and her husband attended an appointment with consultant psychiatrist at the Rotunda, Dr John Sheehan.

Speaking in court, Anna's father John Deeney asked why she had not been admitted to hospital for observation on foot of her anxiety. Dr Sheehan said that this was only done in severe cases of mental illness and admission would be to a psychiatric hospital.

There was a note found in Anna's car but it was not dated and this fact led Coroner Dr Brian Farrell to return an open verdict.

Dr Farrell confirmed he would write to the board of the Rotunda Hospital reflecting Terry Byrne's concerns about sharing of mental health notes with the obstetrics team in cases such as his wife's.

Speaking the day after the inquest, Master of the Rotunda Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said the hospital is reviewing their procedures for sharing information following what had emerged at the inquest.

He told the RTÉ radio program Morning Ireland "It may not be appropriate to have all the information detailed in a patients notes from a confidentiality point of view."

However, he also added that "we will review this very carefully and if we think there are lessons that can be learned then we'll take them on board. If we feel we can do this better, then we will."

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