Open verdict on hospital patient found with throat cut

A "happy go lucky" man who was closely involved in village life was found dead at a psychiatric hospital, an inquest heard.

In August last year, felt-roofer Michael Dennis Duffield, 56, of Upper Tysoe was found in a toilet at St Michael's Hospital, Warwick, in a pool of blood. He had apparently used shattered pieces of a porcelain toilet cistern to cut his throat.

He had a history of depression and had been receiving psychiatric treatment since April 2004.

His wife Helen Duffield described how her husband's personality had altered since he changed jobs in 2003, saying he felt under-appreciated and inadequate after being accused of stealing by his new boss.

The extent of these feelings became apparent when he tried unsuccessfully to hang himself and was subsequently prescribed anti-depressants.

Mrs Duffield said: "Michael just lost his spark. He had a great sense of humour but he withdrew himself from the community and stopped socialising.

"He was frustrated because he couldn't show people how he felt. He said he just wanted to get into a cardboard box and disappear."

At approximately 5.30pm on the day he died, staff nurse Harminder Atwal went to find Mr Duffield as part of observation checks being carried out every 15 minutes. The alarm was raised when he was found lying weak but still conscious on the ground of the first-floor toilet.

He had suffered two large, deep cuts to the right side of his neck and his heart stopped beating soon after staff found him.

Paramedics arrived and took him to Warwick Hospital but, despite attempts to resuscitate him he was declared dead there at 6.20pm.

Staff at St Michael's had treated Mr Duffield in the past and those who spoke to him earlier that day said that he had shown no immediate signs of suicidal intent.

Nurse Tarawonga Marara said: "I spoke to Michael that morning and he said that things were not going well and that he was depressed but his demeanor was really no different to normal.

"He had a shave in the morning and spent time in the communal area.

"There were no obvious indications that he would do this. It shocked me."

A psychiatrist, Dr Gerard Browne, who spoke at length to Mr Duffield before his death said he had had a happy childhood and left school at the age of 15 to become a roofer. He had strong relationships with his wife and children, had run several marathons and was closely involved in community life.

But he said he just wanted "to get back to his happy days."

A jury at the inquest returned a majority open verdict and agreed with the pathologist that Mr Duffield died of blood loss due to a laceration of his throat.

But they felt they had insufficient evidence to conclude he took his own life.

Mrs Duffield said: "Before he died he said he wouldn't see me again. But he often said this when he was feeling low and I thought he would be safe at the hospital."

Coroner Michael Coker said: "You have my deepest sympathies for the loss of your husband after 26 years together."


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