Tragedy of food refusal dad, 56

Parkwood Psychiatric Unit at BVH
Parkwood Psychiatric Unit at BVH
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A DEPRESSED father – sectioned under the Mental Health Act – starved himself to death after branding his own desperate situation “hopeless”.

Staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s Parkwood unit told an inquest they were powerless to act as Stephen Rudd repeatedly refused food and water – and confirmed to staff he was aware his actions would kill him.

The 56-year-old dad-of-one suffeered from bi-polar. He had been sectioned and was accepting treatment for depression, but could not be force-fed even as staff watched his weight plummet.

Mr Rudd’s sister, Polly Carson, told the inquest she found it “terribly difficult to accept” someone who had been sectioned could be allowed to starve themselves to death.

But Joe Crocock, service manager at Parkwood, said: “Your brother understood if he stopped eating it would kill him.

“There was strong evidence of capacity to make decisions and, as our law stands today, that does not come under the remit of 
mental health treatment.”

The court, sitting at Blackpool Town Hall, heard Mr Rudd’s condition began to deteriorate after the death of his mother and the break-down of his marriage.

He was first admitted to Parkwood in 2009, and stayed for more than a year before moving to the Sylvester Care Home, on Reads Avenue, in June 2010.

But he was there for just four months when staff reported he was eating breakfast and lunch but refusing his dinner.

On October 11, 2010 he was admitted to Royal Blackburn Hospital after what social worker Steve Nicholson described as a “sudden change in mood”.

From there Mr Rudd returned to Blackpool and was admitted to Parkwood, where he stayed until his death on March 4, 2011.

Linda Hardy-Jones, a ward manager at Parkwood, said: “He said he wanted to get better however on numerous occasions he made reference to feeling worthless and refused nutrients, which would indicate to the contrary.

“Quite often he would say he felt hopeless.”

Mr Rudd eventually died on a ward in The Vic from bronchopneumonia and renal failure, brought on by his refusal to eat.

Because he was under the care of the state when he died, the verdict in his inquest was decided on by a jury, who ruled he died of natural causes “induced by self neglect and the complexities of his mental condition”.

Blackpool’s deputy coroner Christopher Beverley said: “A lot of care was put into looking after Stephen in these last years.

“We can never understand properly and never explain why he decided to take the path he did and refuse to eat or drink knowing what the consequences would be.”

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