Elderly patient Joe McCarron was convinced to leave Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) on Sept. 14 only to be readmitted to the hospital two days later for severe breathing issues. According to The Irish Times, he died Friday without regaining consciousness and was buried Sunday in his hometown of Dungloe.
A video of the incident in which anti-vaxxers campaigned to remove him from the hospital against medical advice went viral 10 days before McCarron’s death, the Irish Mirror reported. In it, doctors can be heard pleading for the elderly patient to stay, despite this the anti-vaxxers claiming they were saving his life by taking him home.
“It’s a very difficult disease that you have, and I’m not lying to you, you could die, but this could be your best chance in the hospital,” a hospital staff member told McCarron, explaining the risks associated with leaving.
“Put your trousers on, my friend. We are going home. You are safe,” the anti-vaxxer trying to convince McCarron to leave the ICU says in the video. After he successfully convinces him he says: “We are saving Joe’s life” and “Today is a winning day for Ireland.”
McCarron was convinced to sign himself out of the hospital by far-right activist Antonio Mureddu, a member of the so-called Freedom on the Land Movement, who claimed he was “rescuing” McCarron from his death. According to Mureddu, the hospital was going to “kill” McCarron if he stayed any longer.
“You have the right to decide what you want to do, but I don’t think what he is saying is right. You’re barely able to breathe now. We want you to stay to help you,” another hospital staff member told McCarron.
“These people, they are lying, so we go home now, my friend. It’s better if he dies in the house than die in here. He’s going to die with us,” Mureddu said before McCarron agreed to go with him.
McCarron died days after Mureddu said: “We are so happy we have saved Joe’s life.”
Following his death, McCarron’s family issued a statement apologizing to the hospital for what happened and criticizing those who encouraged McCarron to leave.
“Una would like to thank the staff and apologize for the actions of Joe’s so-called reckless friends earlier in the week. They did not help Joe’s recovery in any way,” a spokesman, on behalf of the family and McCarron’s wife Una, said. “We would encourage everyone to follow proper medical advice.”
As of this report, Ireland’s Garda Síochána police force is investigating the incident because amongst other issues, staff members at the hospital were verbally abused. According to The Irish Times, local officers were also advised to be careful when dealing with Mureddu due to concerns of him passing COVID-19 to others.
“Garda Síochána continues to investigate a number of recent incidents which occurred at Letterkenny University Hospital,” a police spokeswoman said Sunday, according to The Irish Times. “A senior investigating officer is appointed to oversee the investigation.”
McCarron’s case has received national attention as a warning for those who follow such ill-advised conspiracy theories and groups. According to the Irish Mirror, even Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin commented on the story and warned individuals not to leave the hospitals noting that “If you get it (Covid-19), you should treat it as very serious.”
“Certainly, it is outrageous that anyone would, in an ill-informed way, be advising people to leave the hospital. It endangers that person’s health,” he added.
But one of their own dying from bad advice wasn’t enough. Several people who attended McCarron’s funeral were asked to leave the church because they were not wearing face masks as per government guidelines, and refused to do so. According to a local outlet, all five of the individuals who were asked to leave also sat in a row together despite signs requesting attendees to sit apart.
“I knew two of them to see because of recent media coverage and from social media. They were definite members of that anti-vaccine protest group,” a witness said according to the journal.ie.
As conspiracy theories and misinformation continue to spread in regards to the novel coronavirus, anti-vaxxer deaths follow. Who’s to say when these individuals will realize that acting in violence and self-treatment will not aid their survival.