Fresh inquest to be held into post-vaccination death

April 2006
A fresh inquest is to be held into the death of a 22-year-old man over a decade ago, the Dublin City Coroner's Court found today.

Vera Duffy, mother of Alan Duffy, from Howth Road, Clontarf, Dublin, has been looking for an inquest into his death to establish if a three-in-one vaccination was to blame.

Attempts to reconvene the original inquest jury which last heard evidence of Mr Duffy's death seven years ago failed.

Dublin City Coroner, Dr Brian Farrell, said the original inquest, which was adjourned due to appeals to the Supreme Court, would have to be concluded.

"It will be necessary to have a fresh inquest but the way that inquest is to proceed must be in line with what the Supreme Court said," Dr Farrell added.

Following a Supreme Court judgement, the coroner cannot investigate any alleged link between the 22-year-old's death and the three-in-one vaccination.

Outside the court, Mrs Duffy said the family had got what they were seeking in the fresh inquest.

But she added: "There are so many restrictions being put on the jury from the Supreme Court, they are now saying we can't even mention a link between the three-in-one vaccine. I don't know how they are ever going to be able to reach a true verdict."

His father, Kevin Duffy said: "The basis of the Supreme Court ruling was based on the old rules that you could only have two medical experts, now that has changed and we are either going to appeal the Supreme Court decision or we are going to see what is passed on our submissions (to the coroner)."

Mr Duffy died in 1995 after contracting pneumonia - he had received the three-in-one Pertussis vaccine between October 1973 and February 1974.

His family have argued the pneumonia was due to his mental handicap, which they claim was caused by an encephalopathic reaction to the vaccine.

The High Court ruled in 1999 that any link between his death and the vaccine was too indistinct to make it appropriate for investigation by a coroner. And the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the coroner against the decision.

The coroner rejected a call by counsel for the Health Services Executive for the doctor who saw Mr Duffy before his death to be contacted to see if he would sign the death certificate which would remove the need for the inquest.

Dr Farrell said the medical doctor had originally referred the death of Mr Duffy to him as he had refused to sign the death certificate on the cause of his death.

The coroner said the options included a new inquest with qualifications due to the Supreme Court judgement or he could sit alone in the public interest.

Dr Farrell said he would not be proposing to call witnesses but to rely on the sworn evidence given to the jury. He said the Supreme Court had ruled the coroner was not entitled to call an independent expert.

"I think we will have to proceed on what we have heard," he said.

Outside the court, Mrs Duffy said: "He is totally restricted, how he is going to direct a jury, God only knows."

The coroner invited submissions from the family and the HSE on the procedures to be adopted for the fresh inquest, and adjourned it until May 22.