Gardaí are investigating the circumstances surrounding the decision of a Covid-19 patient to reject medical advice and leave hospital with another person.

Joe McCarron, who returned two days later but passed away last Friday, was encouraged to leave Letterkenny University Hospital despite the efforts of medical staff to persuade him to remain.

A team of detectives led by a senior investigating officer at Letterkenny Garda Station are investigating if any criminal offence - such as intimidation, trespass or endangerment - may have been committed.

Gardaí said a file will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions who will decide whether criminal charges will be commenced.

Mr McCarron, 67, from Dungloe in Co Donegal was a Covid-19 patient at the hospital.

On 14 September, he was encouraged to leave, against medical advice, by another person.

Video footage of Mr McCarron discharging himself from hospital was posted online earlier this month, with another person apparently encouraging and facilitating the discharge.

On the video a man is telling Mr McCarron to "put your trousers on, we are going now, you are safe, you follow me".

A staff member tells Mr McCarron that he has the right to decide what he wants to do but that he does not think what the other man is saying to him is right.

"You are barely able to breathe there now," he tells him, "we want you to stay and help you".

The other man then says: "No Joe, they're going to f…..ing kill you Joe," and then says to the staff member "because you are killing people".

The staff member tells Mr McCarron: "I'm very worried about you and I want you to stay. I think he is saying something very dangerous. What he is saying is very wrong and very dangerous and I think he is endangering your life.

"It is a very difficult disease that you have," the hospital staff member says to Mr McCarron "and I'm not lying to you, you could die. This will be your best chance in the hospital and getting the support we are giving to you."

The other man then intervenes and accuses the hospital staff of "lying" and says "we go".

"Think about this", the staff member says to the other man, "you are endangering his life".

Staff at the hospital pleaded with Mr McCarron not to leave.

Two days later Mr McCarron was readmitted to hospital.

He was placed on a ventilator, but his condition deteriorated and he passed away last Friday. He was laid to rest yesterday.

His family were very critical of what happened and encouraged people to follow medical advice.

Gardaí are also investigating at least one other incident at the hospital.

The Saolta Hospital Group, which is responsible for Letterkenny University Hospital, has expressed "grave concerns" about the impact of Covid-19-denying activists on staff and patients.

It said it would not comment on individual cases.

Gardaí had already commenced an investigation before Mr McCarron died.

They will speak to medical staff at the hospital and family members. They will also source the video and believe they have identified some of the people involved.

It is not clear what crime, if any, may have been committed.

There is an offence of endangerment where it states "a person shall be guilty of an offence who intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious harm to another".

The offence carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison in the District Court and up to seven years in the Circuit Court.