Obese Inmate Found Dead in Long Bay Prison was Prescribed Cocktail of Drugs
Prison doctors prescribed an inmate who died in a Sydney jail a cocktail of pills that may have contributed to his dangerously unhealthy weight of 199 kilograms, an inquest has heard.
Inmate Edward Haenga weighed 150 kilograms when he had a medical review at the privately run Junee jail in country New South Wales in 2011.
He was transferred to Long Bay prison in Sydney in 2013, and died a few months later weighing 199 kilograms.
An autopsy revealed the 37-year-old who was found in his cell on June 9, 2013, had an obesity-related heart condition.
Deputy NSW coroner Derek Lee is examining how the medications Haenga was on may have contributed to his massive weight gain, and if his medication was properly monitored by prison doctors.
The Junee jail in the Riverina region was operated by GEO, which also runs Sydney’s Parklea prison.
Glebe Coroners Court has heard the New Zealand-born man who grew up in Sydney had been prescribed methadone, strong pain relief, anti-inflammatory drugs, various anti-psychotic drugs and anti-depressants including Lexapro and Seroquel.
During his time in jail he was hospitalised for pneumonia and septicaemia in 2011.
He had started taking medication for pain and post-traumatic stress disorder after sustaining burns to 75 per cent of his body when he was in a house fire at the age of 18.
No Medical Handover Between Jails
The Counsel Assisting the coroner, Peter Aitken, said questions will be raised about why there is no clear record of a handover from the prison doctors who treated Haenga at Junee, to his treating doctors in Sydney.
Dr Richard Baguley told the inquest he was a GP at Junee jail for 22 years before he retired in 2015.
He said there was no formal handover process between Junee and doctors at other jails and that they contacted him rarely.
When asked how often he received calls from other jails after a prisoner transfer he said: “I might get two or three phone calls a year.”
The inquest is looking at the medical care the prisoner received, the cause and manner of his death, and whether the doses and combination of drugs he was on contributed to it.
It is also looking at procedures that were in place to monitor if inmates had stopped taking their medication.
‘Why Did He Get So Big?’
Mr Lee expressed his sympathy to the prisoner’s family members who were in court.
“I can only begin to get a glimmer of your loss… inquests often raise very strong emotions,” he said.
Outside Glebe Coroners court, the prisoner’s father Pepe Uili said he wanted answers.
“If they were looking after him properly, why did he get so big?” Mr Uili said.
“Why didn’t they see that?”