Homeless man restrained by High Court from leaving hospital

By Ann O'Loughlin

A memory-impaired homeless man has been restrained by the High Court from leaving a hospital because of concerns his life and safety could be at risk due to his impairment.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, granted the orders today following an urgent ex parte one side only represented application by David Leahy BL, for the HSE.

An inquiry has also been ordered with a view to establishing whether the man should be made a ward of court.

The court heard little is known about the man, aged in his sixties, who is homeless and living on the streets.

He is alcohol dependent and had been attending a hospital's outreach programme where concerns were raised about his memory impairment, perhaps resulting from long-term alcohol abuse.

It is not known how long he has had that impairment, the court heard.

The application arose after the man’s treating doctor examined him when he was not under the influence of alcohol and took the view he lacks capacity and would be at risk if discharged.

The man forgets where he is, who is treating him and how to stay safe even crossing the road, the court heard. The doctor considered he cannot understand the risks to himself if discharged.

File photo

Mr Justice Kelly said the man wants to leave the hospital and the fear is that will come to serious harm and is at risk, up to and including death, if discharged.

He was satisfied from the evidence the orders sought are necessary and in the man’s best interests, the judge said.

He made orders preventing the man leaving the hospital and permitting doctors to administer such treatment as is considered necessary in his best interests.

The orders include, if necessary, for the man's restraint and sedation and for gardai to assist in preventing him leaving.

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