Victims of deceased psychiatrist want an apology

The sickening abuse that a number of Waterford women endured at the hands of a top Consultant Psychiatrist was revealed in a harrowing documentary last week.

RTE’s “Behind The Walls” lifted the lid on allegations of abuse made against Dr. Denis Lane O’Kelly,who promoted himself as an expert on alcoholism and sexual abuse, at the Brother of Charity operated Belmont Park Hospital.

A number of women have revealed how they were told to strip naked for the doctor before being subject to internal examinations, while others were plied with high levels of medication without need. For years these brave women have fought for recognition of the traumatic ordeal they went though and they continue to do so.

The Waterford News & Star spoke to two women about the abuse they suffered, which has understandably left terrible emotional scars on them decades later.

Margaret Martin, originally from Ferrybank and now living in the city, encountered Dr. Lane O’Kelly on her admission to Belmont in 1985, at the age of 27, as she battled with alcoholism.

Over five years she says she was subjected to abuse at the hands of the man who was meant to be looking after her.

“The first day I was admitted Dr Lane O’Kelly came in and I was told I was privileged to have him look after me,” Margaret said, but she soon found out that this wasn’t to be the case.

Over the years he carried out inappropriate examinations on her and despite telling staff members at the time, Margaret said there was little done to help her or the many other patients she believes suffered similar abuse.

“The Matron and the Chief Nursing Officer came to my bed and said, ‘If you ever think of going about this remember it’s an alcoholics word against a top Psychiatrist.’ I hadn’t a hope and no one had the balls to stand up for us,” she said.

She said the softly spoken man would call her “love” or “my little doll” and was “held in high esteem, a pillar of society,” in the locality and therefore people were afraid to speak out.

Members of her family approached staff and social workers and they got a similar response, that it was an alcoholic’s word they were dealing with.

On another occasion Margaret, who has been sober for over 18 years now, says she was given sodium pentothal, better known as the truth serum, by Dr O’Kelly.

“To this day I never got any report back from that. I was completely out of it. There was only me and him in there. I don’t know what he did in that room. That question mark will go to the grave with me,” she said.

Janet Dalton, also from Ferrybank, but now living in Aisling Court, was another woman who was subject to abuse at a vulnerable time in her life.

Now a mother of five, Janet tragically suffered a miscarriage in 1980. Following this she had became depressed and attended at Belmont Park at the age of 29. She had one encounter with Dr Lane O’Kelly in which he told her to undress before performing an inappropriate examination.

Janet immediately told her husband Tom and they spoke to a social worker about what happened.

“I told her what happened and she had heard it before. She believed it. She tried to do something but it all fell on deaf ears.

Her husband also met with one of the Brothers and told him about the abuse of the doctor, but it was dismissed as lies.

“We left it go, no one would take on the medical profession, it’s a closed shop. One doctor was not going to say a bad word against another. I had another appointment with him, but I never kept it,” Janet added.

By the 90s suspicions about the doctor were rife and a number of woman reported that they were sexually assaulted by him from the 1970s to his retirement in the 1990s. Two weeks before he was due to stand trial, charged with multiple counts of indecent assault, he died of a heart attack. A civil action against the Brothers of Charity has since been dismissed due to a lapse of time. Margaret said, “I have nothing against Belmont but it’s the treatment I received there that I have a problem with.

We’ve been fighting the system for 14 years and we’ve gotten no acknowledgement of what happened to us, no apology, we are still swept under the carpet and it happened, it bloody well happened and he died on us before we could have his day in court. All we wanted was our day in court, for him to say he did it. It was a horrible time in my life.”

The woman have found great strength in their friendship and they urge other women who suffered at the hands of Dr. O’Kelly to come forward and let their voice be heard so that what he did to them doesn’t stay hidden in the shadows.

Together they stand united in their cause, to seek recognition for the torment caused by the hands of a medical professional. Janet says, “We would like an acknowledgement to say it happened. Nobody believed us, we were liars. We want an apology and recognition that he did this.”

Margaret added, “Where’s the health board? There has been no reaction from them. Where’s the Brothers of Charity, have none of them a conscience? Dr Conor O’Neill, my GP, is the only man who is willing to stand up and say what he did was wrong, that this was inappropriate behaviour. Dr. Lane O’Kelly is dead but I would like an apology.”

Source: Mary Ellen Breen, “Fighting to be heard,” Waterford News and Star, 9/2011.
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