Non-drinking woman was prescribed drug for alcoholism as hospital apologizes after her death


A WOMAN who was not drinking was prescribed a drug for alcoholism, according to an ombudsman report.

The woman – whose name is Norah in the report – had not had an alcoholic drink in 10 years, but a doctor gave her medicine to combat alcoholism.


Ombudsman Peter TyndellCredit: document
The doctor noted that Norah did not drink alcohol and immediately stopped prescribing the drug


The doctor noted that Norah did not drink alcohol and immediately stopped prescribing the drugCredit: Alamy

According to the 2020 report, Norah’s daughter Sarah complained to the ombudsman after her late mother was prescribed the drug.

The drug is used to treat alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal, but Norah hadn’t had a drink in 10 years.

She received the prescription as part of her cancer treatment at Mater Hospital after going to the emergency room with severe stomach pain and jaundice.

While giving her medical history, Norah clarified that she does not drink alcohol.

The doctors did some tests and a subsequent ultrasound confirmed that Norah had liver cancer.


Later that night, she was given the drugs typically used to treat acute alcohol withdrawal.

Her concerned family noticed their mother had become drowsy and confused and spoke to the nursing staff who sent a doctor to examine Norah’s condition.

The doctor noted that Norah did not drink alcohol and immediately stopped prescribing the drug.

Norah’s family complained to the Mater that their mother had been wrongly prescribed these drugs and soon after, Norah tragically died.

Her family said they felt like they had missed precious time with Norah and that the hospital had just assumed that Norah was drinking alcohol.


The Mater acknowledged that Norah was wrongly prescribed the drugs, but was unable to identify the doctor who approved them.

The ombudsman’s report revealed that the prescription was initialed but without a registration number with the Irish Medical Council.

While the Mater apologized to Norah’s family, they were unable to explain why she was prescribed the drugs nor were they able to identify the doctor, despite the comparison of initials with the bank of signatures of the hospital and the conversation with the personnel who worked that day.

An incident form was also completed, but these actions were taken after a formal complaint was filed by Norah’s family against the Mater.

The Ombudsman concluded that the incident form should have been completed immediately and greater efforts should have been made at the time of the incident.

Since the complaint was filed, the CEO of the hospital has issued a further written apology to Norah’s family and the Mater will implement an educational program for the multidisciplinary team.

They are also working on the development of electronic prescriptions and a new electronic incident reporting system.


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