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Inquest for mentally-ill Ipswich man hears of 'balancing act' in supporting 'hard to reach' patients

PUBLISHED: 18:42 07 February 2017 | UPDATED: 18:42 07 February 2017

David Martin, who was found dead in his Ipswich flat in September 2014.

David Martin, who was found dead in his Ipswich flat in September 2014.

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The death of a mentally-ill Suffolk man has raised questions about whether patients' independence should be protected to the detriment of their own physical wellbeing.

David Martin, pictured when he was at high schoolDavid Martin, pictured when he was at high school

Relatives of David Martin, who was found dead in his Ipswich flat on September 11, 2014, aged 52 had claimed more should have been done to recognise the warning signs of a potential crisis.

His brother Steve Martin told an inquest the increasing untidiness of his sibling’s home and his taking of amphetamines should have triggered a response.

The inquest, held on Monday and today, heard David suffered complex mental and physical health issues, including bipolar manic depression and schizo-affective disorder, as well as drug and alcohol problems.

David, who was cared for by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, had regularly been admitted to psychiatric wards between 1983-2012.

Brothers David and Steve Martin pictured in 1971Brothers David and Steve Martin pictured in 1971

During more stable times, however, he was described as “smart”, “witty” and a “pleasure to be with”.

David was also said to engage in unhealthy behaviour including taking amphetamines, drinking, smoking and a poor diet.

The inquest heard David was warned he could suffer “drug and alcohol induced sudden death” but saw it as a “risk he was willing to take”.

As a “hard to reach” service user, health workers highlighted the dangers of intruding on his independence. He was said to be capable of making his own decisions.

Coroner Peter Dean suggested there was a “balancing act” between managing ill-health while not making him “retreat”.

Although Steve claimed warning signs had been missed, Dr Dean said staff had not missed anything significant. David’s recent behaviour was said to have been “within normal parameters”.

A pathology report identified pneumonia as the cause of death. David also had an enlarged heart, fatty liver and high levels of codeine and amphetamine were detected. No definitive cause of pneumonia was given.

Dr Dean recorded a narrative verdict of: “Severe bilateral pneumonia occurring against a background of significant mental health problems and intermittent drug use.”

After the hearing, Steve said he was pleased to have closure for the family and thanked Dr Dean. He said he hoped the inquest could highlight possible improvements in services for people such as his brother with dual diagnoses.

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