Dementia patient fed solid foods despite warning, wife tells court

Dementia patient who was could only eat soft food was fed solid foods on several occasions – victim’s wife

The wife of an elderly dementia victim who choked to death on a piece of chicken one and half hours after having gone missing from his room at Karin Grech Hospital, has today claimed in court that despite several warnings, her husband had been fed solid food on several occasions.

Questioning how her husband – “a dementia sufferer who was unable to find his room and bathroom” – spent 90 minutes dead in a toilet before the alarm was raised, an emotional Eileen Darmanin explained to the court that the toilet was only a few metres away from the nurses’ room.

Darmanin was summoned this morning to testify against chief nurse Maria Bondin, 57, of Paola, nursing aide Carol Bonnici, 55, of Siġġiewi, and nurse David Sant, 30, of Għargħur, who are pleading not guilty to the involuntary homicide of the elderly victim.

Her husband, John, passed away on March 7, 2012, after choking to death on a piece of chicken – a day before he was going to be discharged from hospital.

Recounting her husband’s demise, Eileen Darmanin explained that her husband had been admitted to Karin Grech Hospital to undergo rehabilitation after suffering from a stroke.

Darmanin explained that after the stroke, her husband, John, became unable to eat or swallow any solid food, and consequently could only eat a soft diet.

“The speech therapist had made it clear that he [the victim] could not eat solid food, while the nurses were instructed to supervise him while he ate,” she said while adding that there clear signs affixed on her husband’s bed frame.

But despite the “clear warnings,” Darmanin – who is holding the accused responsible for the death of her husband – claimed that the victim was given solid food on several occasions, ranging from brussel sprouts to bread.

“Two weeks before the incident, he was given a pie, and when I told the nurse, she had told me that there was no more food to offer.”

“On another occasion, John’s [the victim’s] face was swollen and could not talk. I then noticed that he had a piece of bread lodged at the back of his throat, and after I took him to the toilet, I took the food out of his mouth,” she said.

Asked by Lawyer Stefano Filletti, who is appearing in parte civile, Darmanin explained that upon arriving at the hospital, her husband was already dead.

“When I went to hospital, my husband was already dead on the bed. When I asked the nurses what had happened, they told me that he had choked on a piece of food and that their attempt to remove the food proved futile,” she said while adding that as a result, she called police in.

She also explained that the hospital staff spent one a half hours to realise that her husband was dead. Moreover, Darmanin said that questions on what her husband had eaten went unanswered.

“They did not show me the bathroom, but merely pointed it out. The bathroom was a few metres away from the nurses’ room. I cannot understand how he was able to find the toilet on his own and without any help, when in seven weeks under care, he was never able to find the toilet or his room,” she said.

Lawyers Stefan Filletti appeared in parte civile for the Darmanin family, lawyers Lucio and Michael Sciriha appeared for Bondin, lawyer Steve Tonna Lowell for Bonnici and lawyer Kris Scicluna for Sant.

The case has continues on 27 November.