Epileptic took his life while under close observation

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE JURY at the inquest on Lawrence Dinsey, a patient at Lister hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, who stabbed himself 51 times while under 'close observation' returned an eight to two verdict that he 'killed himself while in a post-ictal psychotic state'.

The jury took almost five hours to reach a decision on the death of Mr Dinsey, of Stevenage. He bled to death after stabbing himself while on the psychiatric wing of the hospital on 22 May.

The verdict indicates the jury felt Mr Dinsey may not have been fully aware of what he was doing. The 33-year-old florist suffered epileptic fits. The after-effects sometimes left him in a psychotic state when he thought God was telling him to take his life.

Mr Dinsey's widow, Shani, told Dr John Vick, the Hitchin District Coroner, that her husband had a fit on the afternoon of 21 May.

When Mr Dinsey arrived at the hospital with his brother Peter and his mother, staff were unable to find his medical notes, even though he had been a regular patient who had been treated in intensive therapy. A year before, he narrowly escaped death after shooting himself through the chest with a double-barrelled shotgun.

'Instead,' Mr Dinsey's brother said, 'the psychiatrist came down with a blank sheet of paper to interview him'.

Dr Helen Medhurst was the only psychiatrist at the hospital that night and told the inquest she asked Mr Dinsey if he intended hurting himself. He replied he did not, but she left orders he should be under 'close observation', meaning 10-minute checks to ensure he was all right.

Mr Dinsey's brother Eric said after the inquest: 'We are not satisfied with the verdict and may call for an independent inquiry to be carried out at the hospital to examine the circumstances surrounding my brother's death.' The hospital has been the subject of three inquiries this year. Six patients killed themselves there between April and July and a further five made unsuccessful attempts to end their lives. Each of the inquiries so far have called for more staff and extra supervision. Jonathon Street, the hospital trust's spokesman, said a recruiting programme was already in hand as a result and three extra nurses had been taken on.

Mr Dinsey's family was represented at the inquest by Mind, the mental health charity, which said it was unhappy with the verdict. Adina Halpern of Mind called for an intensive care unit to be incorporated into the hospital's psychiatric wing.

She said: 'Until the trust invests in an intensive care area where patients will be safe, I fear occasions such as this may be repeated.' Mr Street said after the inquest that a review was under way into how best to install a 'special observation area away from the main body of other patients'.

Mr Dinsey unleashed a frenzied attack on himself with a Swiss army knife and his wounds included a 7in hole to the chest. He bled to death behind a lavatory door as staff fought to reach him.

The coroner said after the inquest: 'I will be writing to the North Hertfordshire Hospital Trust to draw their attention to various matters which I think contributed to the death.'

Angus Moon, barrister for the trust, said the verdict was the proper one.