Family of man who died by suicide after leaving Galway mental health unit receive apology

Although he was a voluntary patient, his movements were restricted. He only had leave to be off the unit when he was with his family or with occupational therapists.

Alan and Denise Costello. Photo: Collins Court


A mental health service has unreservedly apologised in the High Court for the standard of care given to a 25-year-old man who later died by suicide.

Student Jamie Costello was taken from the water at the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare two years ago.

On Tuesday, his parents and other members of his family settled their actions against the HSE over his death.

At the time of his death on October 1, 2019, he was a voluntary patient at the acute mental health unit at University Hospital Galway. He was supposed to leave the unit only in the company of his family or occupational therapists.

A letter of apology was read to the court from Steven Jackson, general manager of Mental Health Services Community Healthcare West.

The letter, to Jamie’s parents, Dr Alan Costello and his wife Denise, said: “I am writing to you on behalf of Galway Roscommon Mental Health Services and do so with regret and sadness.

“On behalf of the service I wish to unreservedly apologise to you and all of the members of your family for the standard of care delivered to your late son Mr Jamie Costello which was not to the standard our services would believe was appropriate.”

It added: “ We extend our deepest sympathies to you and our family and to all of those devastated by the loss of your beloved son.

“We understand that this apology cannot negate the deep effect the loss of your son has had on your lives.”

The Costello family’s counsel, Jonathan Kilfeather SC, told the court three nervous shock actions taken by family members and one over his death had been settled. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Dr Alan Costello of Ballinduff, Cornadulla, Co Galway, had sued the HSE over the death of his son on October 1, 2019.

Jamie, it was claimed, had suffered from complex mental health problems including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder.

He was admitted to the acute mental health unit in Galway twice in 2019.

Although he was a voluntary patient, his movements were restricted. He only had leave to be off the unit when he was with his family or with occupational therapists.

It was claimed he was treated with a variety of medications and psychological interventions but he remained symptomatic and continued to intermittently express thoughts of hopelessness and suicidal ideation.

At the time of his death he was due to be assessed at a specialist unit in London.

On September 30, 2019, Jamie left the unit on his own for an hour which it was claimed was contrary to the instructions of his consultant psychiatrist.

The next day he again left the unit and it was claimed there was no satisfactory explanation of how he was able to leave the unit on consecutive days without the agreement of his clinician.

It was claimed the care provided to him on September 30 and October 1, 2019 was of an unacceptable standard.

It was further claimed that had Jamie been afforded adequate care on those days he would not have taken his own life and would have gone to a London hospital as planned.

It was also claimed he had been granted unsupervised leave when it was known he was a suicide risk.

The lives of the Costello family have been torn apart by the tragic and untimely death of Jamie, it was claimed.

Dr Costello suffered intense shock when he discovered his son was missing from the acute unit, it was claimed.

Noting the settlements Mr Justice Paul Coffey conveyed his deepest sympathy to the Costello family.

Outside court the Costello family solicitor Damien Tansey said Jamie had left the facility on three separate occasions within two weeks and the clinician in charge of his case had directed he be allowed out only in the care of his parents or an occupational therapist.

“Unfortunately the unspeakable tragedy that you heard in court happened. The family still have to face the inquest. Hopefully lessons will be learned from this,” he added.

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