A terminally ill man was left to die in his Midlands Prison Portlaoise cell due to the lack of an available hospice bed.
A report into the incident by the Inspector of Prisons, which has been seen by LaoisToday, explains how the prisoner, known as Mr P, died.
Despite the best efforts of the Midlands Prison’s staff, Governor and the prisoner’s doctors, the HSE were not in a position to provide a suitable bed for this terminally ill man to die in a hospice space or some similar suitable end of life setting.
But instead, he was left with the added indignity of dying in his prison cell.
Mr P was aged 47 when he died in the Midlands Prison on November 14 2018.
His illness, terminal cancer, had been diagnosed four months earlier – in July 2018 – just over a year after he was sent to prison.
An investigation is carried out by the Inspector of Prisons if a prisoner dies while in detention and Mr P was the fourth person to die in the Midlands in 2018 and the 16th nationally.
The report found that the end of life care that Mr P received in the Midlands Prison was commendable. Every effort was made to make him comfortable and he was treated with as much compassion and respect as was possible on a busy prison wing.
This was challenging for staff though as they did not have the necessary equipment or personal care materials to care for a
Mr P’s family were brought in to visit just before he passed. They could only see him in his cell, which meant the visit could only take place when some 50 other prisoners on the wing were locked in their cells.
His brother, who was also in the Midlands Prison, was brought to see him and was present when Mr P passed.
The report finds: “These practical burdens on Irish Prison Service staff and the family would have been unnecessary if Mr P had been afforded the opportunity to die in a hospice, rather than in prison.”
Mr P’s sister, who was his next of kin, asked why he was not been given the opportunity to die in a hospice setting rather than a prison cell. She felt that this was very unfair.
The report outlined how, despite approval from the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, a move from the prison could not be facilitated.
It said: “Ministerial approval for hospice care was granted, however Mr P remained and died in prison.
“On October 15 2018, the Irish Prison Service informed the Office of Inspector of Prisons that following Ministerial approval for Mr P to receive hospice care he continued to be cared for in Portlaoise General Hospital until his discharge back to the Midlands Prison on November 8 2018.
“Nurse Manager A reported that there was discussion between the Community Palliative Care Team and Portlaoise General Hospital regarding Mr P’s requirement for hospice care and while this discourse was taking place he remained in hospital.
“Ultimately, Consultant A’s clinical opinion was that Mr P did not require an acute hospital bed. Irish Prison Service National Nurse Manager A attended the hospital on November 2018 7 and advised that he spoke with Consultant A by phone.
“Nurse Manager A reported that he was informed that the Palliative Care Consultant did not have admission rights to Portlaoise General Hospital and as Mr P did not require the services of an acute hospital place he was being discharged back to the Midlands Prison that afternoon.
“The Irish Prison Service informed the Office of Inspector of Prisons that at that time there was no community hospice bed available and the only dignified response it could afford to Mr P was to make the best possible arrangements for him to be nursed in the Midlands Prison.
“The following arrangements were then put in place – Community Palliative Care Team, extra nursing/healthcare assistant supports on nights.
“Nurse Manger A informed the Office of Inspector of Prisons that the Community Palliative Care Team continued to make efforts to secure a hospice bed, however, as no bed became available Mr
P had to be nursed to end of life in the Midlands Prison.”