Nurses describe an ’emotionless’ Lionel Desmond, a stark contrast to what his psychiatrist saw

Two nurses at an Antigonish, N.S., hospital who saw Lionel Desmond described a very different patient than the psychiatrist who treated him days before he would kill his family and himself. 

Nurse Maggie MacDonald appeared at the fatality inquiry into the deaths of Desmond, his wife Shanna, his 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah, and his mother Brenda.

MacDonald said Tuesday that Desmond’s face seemed devoid of emotion, even as he spoke politely to her while waiting to be released from an overnight stay at the emergency room.

She noted that in his chart, alongside the fact that he’d slept poorly the night before. The nurse who had monitored him overnight wrote that in roughly five times she checked on him, he was awake or told her that he was having trouble sleeping. 

Both nurses were relatively new to the profession. MacDonald had been working for less than a year at the time, saying that she made these notes based upon the best practices she’d learned. 

CBC’s Laura Fraser is liveblogging from the inquiry today
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Psychiatrist Dr. Faisal Rahman testified last week that he never read MacDonald’s notes. He said he had spoken with her over the phone — thinking she was an emergency room doctor — and asked if she had any concerns about releasing the veteran. 

Then, he gave the order over the phone to release Desmond. 

MacDonald told the inquiry that she watched the veteran leave the emergency room and never saw Rahman. But Rahman testified that he drove over to the emergency room himself and met briefly with the veteran on his way out. 

He told the judge that Desmond reported “a good night’s sleep” and seemed calm and engaging. 

The next day, the veteran purchased a Soviet-style rifle and killed his wife, daughter and mother before shooting himself.

As the inquiry probes whether the health-care workers who saw him understand the warning signs of domestic violence and the symptoms of PTSD, it will hear from more nurses today.


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