Man whose late wife administered lethal dose of medication to their baby says mental health system is broken

Nicola Keane, who took her own life, had post natal depression and psychosis after giving birth to son Henry

A man whose wife took her own life after administering a lethal dose of medication to her baby has told a High Court judge that Ireland’s mental health system is broken.

Darren Coleman was speaking in the High Court as he settled an action over the care received by his 34-year old wife Nicola Keane, who had post natal depression and psychosis after giving birth to their son, Henry.

Ms Keane’s body was discovered at Lower Road, Strawberry Beds, Dublin at 3.45am on October 22nd, 2020.

When gardaí called to Ms Keane’s home in Lucan, Co Dublin to inform her husband of her death, Mr Coleman, who had been asleep, found his son lifeless in the back bedroom.

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Bruce Antoniotti SC, instructed by solicitor Rachael Liston, said the facts were harrowing and distressing.

Counsel said that on October 21st, 2020, Ms Keane, a paediatric nurse, had offered to go to the spare room with Henry, who had become unsettled late at night. Counsel said Ms Keane had administered a lethal level of medication to the baby.

Mr Coleman sued Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) and the HSE over the circumstances leading to the death of his wife and the aftermath. It was claimed that the mother and baby were owed a duty of care in and about the investigation, diagnosis, management, treatment and care of the mother’s severe mental illness, and the identification of the risk of the mother committing infanticide and the risk of suicide.

CHI denied all claims, but the HSE admitted a breach of duty by failing to appreciate that Ms Keane had suffered from psychotic depression, failing to communicate this to her husband and failing to ensure she received in-patient treatment before October 13th, 2020.

An apology on behalf of the Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow Mental Health Services was read to the court.

Mr Coleman, who settled his action after mediation, told the judge: “She (Ms Keane) never hid her illness from her medical team. She repeatedly told them she wasn’t getting better and spoke about the concerning thoughts she had.”

He described his son as beautiful and inquisitive and said people often commented that he was gorgeous.

“The mental health system in Ireland is broken. Mental health is not a priority in this country,” Mr Coleman told Mr Justice Coffey. “Investment in mental health is a necessity. People with mental health issues don’t receive the same level of care as those who have a physical condition.”

He also told those involved in his wife’s care not to blame themselves.

Counsel told the court that, in August 2020, when Mr Coleman informed the care team he was going back to work, he was told everything was fine and his wife’s post natal depression had improved.

Mr Coleman completely trusted the care team but counsel said that Ms Keane’s medication was actually increased twice as her mental state deteriorated, counsel said.

Mr Antoniotti said that if Mr Coleman had been told of his wife’s condition, he would not have gone back to work.

Noting the settlement, Mr Justice Coffey said it was a tragic and distressing case and he extended his deepest sympathy to Mr Coleman and the extended families.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this story, please contact The Samaritans at 116 123 or email at jo@samaritans.ie

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