Widower challenges coroner's refusal to allow cross examination of doctor

Mr Kane is seeking declarations that the verdict of suicide recorded by the coroner should be quashed and that the coroner had no entitlement to refuse cross-examination of the doctor
Widower challenges coroner's refusal to allow cross examination of doctor

The widower of a woman who died by suicide due to what he alleged was his wife becoming a drug addict from prescription medication has brought a High Court challenge over refusal of a coroner to allow cross-examination of a doctor at the inquest.

Terry Kane, the husband of Deirdre Kane (52), a mother of four from Grange Park, Baldoyle, Dublin, who died in July 2017, says Dublin deputy city coroner, Dr Crona Gallagher, was wrong in law to prevent the family's lawyer from cross-examining his wife's GP on his notes.

He is seeking declarations that the verdict of suicide recorded by the coroner should be quashed and that the coroner had no entitlement to refuse cross-examination of the doctor. He claims, among other things, it was a breach of natural and constitutional justice.

Dr Gallagher accepts she should not have said there should be no cross-examination and should have allowed the family lawyer to open case law on why he was entitled to do so, her counsel Patrick Leonard told the court.

However, Mr Leonard argued “those missteps” did not lead inexorably to the conclusion that the verdict should be quashed.

The coroner also claims the inquest was conducted properly, and she applied the applicable law.

Opiate addiction

Eoghan McCullough SC, for Mr Kane, said the inquest took place on a single day in October 2019 when the family solicitor, Damien Tansey, was expressly refused to be allowed cross-exam Dr Bassam Naser, of Sutton, Dublin, and the coroner expressly refused to hear any legal argument as to why she should.

The family believe that over the years Ms Kane had become addicted to opiate painkillers and this factor contributed to her decision to end her life, counsel said.

In particular, they were concerned that it was contributed to by the way in which she was prescribed the opiates by her medical practitioners without adequate supervision, he said.

Even if the coroner thought this was not so, she (coroner) had the power to consider it in the interest of public health, he said.

The family was anxious Dr Naser should be cross-examined about notes from when she was first prescribed opiates for several years until he ceased to care for her sometime around 2015/16.

The central issues for the court to consider is whether it can be legally correct that there is no entitlement to cross-examine or that the coroner has to entertain legal submissions on why there is an entitlement, he said.

The coroner said she was not preventing cross-examination but “irrelevant examination”, he said.

The High Court will have to decide whether the coroner is entitled not to give a reason for refusing cross-examination and if that is so then Mr Kane is entitled to his declarations.

Depression

The Dublin Coroner’s Court heard in 2019 Ms Kane had become “extremely reliant” on drugs for up to six years before her death.

She had suffered from depression and severe pain since the birth of their youngest child in 2004.

Mr Kane gave evidence to the inquest that his wife suffered major withdrawal symptoms any time she tried to come off such medication.

The family's solicitor also questioned whether it would be fair to record a verdict of suicide.

The inquest also heard Ms Kane’s family initiated High Court proceedings before her death against Dr Naser as well as Dr Josh Keaveny, a consultant in pain medicine and Beaumont Hospital over the treatment provided to her.

The coroner said she could not make a direct link between the prescribing of opiates and Ms Kane’s death. She returned a verdict of death by suicide.

The case continues before Mr Justice Mark Heslin.

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