Inquest hears Roscommon woman died of CJD

An inquest into the death of a Roscommon woman has heard she died from the rare neurological disease CJD.

Margaret Beirne, from Cloneen, Frenchpark, died as a result of the disorder which affects just one in a million people worldwide each year.

Roscommon Coroner’s Court heard that Margaret Beirne died on Thursday, October 5, last at around 11.30am in Roscommon University Hospital.

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Garda Niall McKenna told today’s inquest into her death that he was notified later that day by the hospital that the 64-year-old may have been suffering from CJD.

The following day, he accompanied the remains of the deceased, which were transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin for a post-mortem examination to take place at the request of the Roscommon coroner.

Pathologist Dr Francesca Brett said upon examination, she formed the impression that death had been caused by sporadic CJD, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

She told the court that a prion causes the neurological disease which is fatal and that it usually takes less than a year from diagnosis to death.

She said that Ms Beirne had first presented at Tullamore and then Tallaght Hospital with neurological symptoms and that the rate of progession of the disorder had been rapid.

The deceased had undergone a number of tests, including MRIs and two examinations of spinal fluid and from this and other investigations the presumptive diagnosis was made of CJD.

However, Dr Brett said a definitive diagnosis could only be given after an autopsy when an examination of the brain alone was carried out because of the contagious nature of the disease.

The foreman of the six-strong jury asked the coroner as Ms Beirne had been farming could she have contracted the disorder from cattle.

He was assured by Roscommon coroner P Desmond O’Connor that the pathologist had stated this was not the case, which he said was a relief.

The coroner also said that one form of the disease could be contracted from eating contaminated meat from cattle with BSE, but that wasn’t the case either.

A verdict of death by natural causes was returned in line with the medical evidence of sporadic CJD.