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Patient who jumped to his death from Whittington Hospital window ‘did not mean to kill himself’

Whittington Hospital. Picture: Nigel Sutton Whittington Hospital. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Thursday, February 13, 2014
12:00 PM

A coroner has said that a man who jumped to his death from a fourth floor window at the Whittington Hospital did not mean to kill himself.

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Vincent Fulham, 39, locked himself in a room and forced a restricted window open before falling into the courtyard below in the early hours of April 21 last year.

He was killed instantly.

Assistant coroner Selena Lynch found that doctors who examined him did not have any concerns about his mental health.

She recorded an open verdict at an inquest into his death at Poplar Coroner’s Court on Monday because she did not know why Mr Fulham, who did not have a job, jumped from the window.

“We will never know,” Mrs Lynch said. “It’s a guess and not a very educated guess. Whether it was a psychotic episode or an impulsive desire to end his life, I really don’t know. ­Nobody does. I don’t think he really meant to kill himself.”

Mr Fulham was taken to hospital three days prior to his death with chest pains and symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, though this was later discounted by doctors.

After two days of being kept at the hospital for observation, the heavy drinker became agitated, possibly from alcohol withdrawal.

Mr Fulham, who was staying at an Islington hotel before he was ­admitted, refused to take medication and became confused, wandering in and out of his fourth floor ward.

Although he grew calmer and agreed to sit with the two nurses on duty, at about 1am he locked himself in a visitors’ room before anyone could follow him.

The nurses screamed for security and tried to break into the room, but Mr Fulham jumped.

Andrew Jennings, deputy medical director of Whittington Health NHS Trust, admitted that Mr Fulham should have had a psychiatric assessment sooner but also said Mr Fulham’s situation was “quite complex” as doctors struggled to diagnose his illness.

The coroner said if Mr Fulham had had an assessment she was unsure that the outcome would have been any different.

A spokesman for Whittington Health NHS Trust said: “We would like to send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Vincent Fulham. The Health and Safety Executive confirmed our windows met the correct safety standards. We carried out a full assessment of the locks on all of the hospital’s patient accessible rooms to ensure staff can gain access and minimise the chances of a similar tragedy happening again.”

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