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Fatal Mix-Up: Doctor Poisoned | Limerick Gazette Archives

Fatal Mix-Up: Doctor Poisoned

In a harrowing incident that shook the quiet locality of Ballina, near Nenagh, a respected medical professional, Dr John Burke, tragically lost his life due to a fatal confusion between belladonna liniment and wine. The occurrence, which unfolded last Saturday, has also left Dr Paul Ryan in a grave condition, fighting the effects of the same poisonous substance.

The liniment, mistaken for wine, had been transferred to a wine bottle the previous Thursday, a makeshift solution to a leaking original container. This dangerous mix-up led to the immediate and untimely demise of Dr Burke, who consumed the toxic liquid believing it to be wine. Dr Ryan, having shared the perilous drink, now lies in a critical state, although hopes for his recovery remain cautiously optimistic.

Dr Burke, aged 36, was a figure of considerable esteem in the communities across Clare and Limerick, his passing has sent ripples of grief through both counties. He leaves behind a bereaved widow and family, mourning the loss of a beloved husband and father. The son of the late Mr Eugene John Page Burke, RN, of Blake, Dr Burke’s funeral saw a vast assembly of mourners, a testament to the deep respect and affection held for him in the region.

The inquest into this tragic event, presided over by Mr James O’Brien, Coroner for North Tipperary, began at Ballina with head-Constable Strahan overseeing the proceedings. Testimonies revealed the unfortunate series of events leading to Dr Burke’s consumption of the poison. After falling ill near Dr Ryan’s residence, Dr Burke was swiftly attended to, yet despite immediate medical intervention, succumbed to cardiac failure at 4:13 p.m.

Further investigation into the incident underscored the critical error in storing the belladonna liniment in a wine bottle, a decision that set the stage for this tragedy. The medical community and residents alike have been left to grapple with the stark reminder of the dangers posed by such oversights.

Dr Ryan’s condition, though still serious, has seen some improvement, credited to the swift medical response he received. The community holds onto hope for his full recovery, as he battles the after-effects of the poison.

This poignant incident has cast a sombre shadow over Ballina and its environs, prompting a reflection on the importance of vigilance and safety in the handling and storage of medical substances. As the inquest adjourns, awaiting further evidence, the collective thoughts of a community are with the families affected by this tragedy, hoping for healing and the prevention of similar occurrences in the future.

Irish Independent – Monday 11 January 1915