Coroner releases hospital death finding

A West Australian coroner has made a recommendation following the death of a Vietnam veteran's widow who died in hospital while receiving mental health treatment.

Gillian Hanson, 62, was an involuntary patient at the Bunbury Regional Hospital psychiatric unit when she died in June 2010 from a seizure as a result of hyponatremia - a low sodium level in her blood.

Coroner Evelyn Vicker found the patient died from natural causes and said the cause of Ms Hanson's hyponatremia was probably a combination of her psychosis and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication.

Ms Vicker concluded that there needed to be greater awareness that SSRI medications and some other anti-depressant medications could affect sodium levels and such patients needed to be monitored for hyponatremia.

"It would be a tragedy if the benefits of medicating patients liable to depressive episodes with SSRI medications were negated by a failure to appreciate a need to monitor sodium levels in appropriate circumstances," she said.

"Blood tests should be taken as routine for all new admissions to psychiatric units, however, that is a matter for the chief psychiatrist."

Ms Vicker also emphasised that there was no issue with the supervision, treatment or care that Ms Hanson received while an involuntary inpatient at the hospital.