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Sudden deaths of patients in a mental handicap hospital

  • J Simpson (a1), E McFarland (a1) and GJ Calvert (a1)


One Hundred and two sudden or traumatic deaths of mental handicap inpatients were examined retrospectively over a 28 year period. Data was obtained on each case from medical and nursing case notes and death certificates. Post-mortem results were available for half of the deaths. Cardio-vascular causes accounted for 50% of the total. Sudden deaths of profoundly handicapped patients occurred at a significantly younger age than severely, moderately or mildly handicapped patients. In the latter half of the 28 year period there was an increased incidence of traumatic deaths and sudden deaths due to asphyxia. There was also a significant increase in the mean age of sudden deaths due to epilepsy. Probable explanations for these findings are discussed. In particular, recent accidental traumatic deaths may be related to the process of increased reintegration of patients into the community; a relationship between neuroleptic and anticholingeric medication and asphyxial deaths is proposed.


Corresponding author

*Downshire Hospital, Ardglass Road, Downpatrick, Co. Down.


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