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Coroner writes to surgery after troubled Worthing councillor’s suicide

Mark McCarthy

Mark McCarthy

A CORONER has written to a Findon Valley doctor’s surgery asking for procedures to be reviewed following the death of a former councillor.

Mark McCarthy, 40, a former Independent Tory councillor for Offington ward, died on December 16 after taking an overdose of anti-depressant drug Dosulepin, while more than three times over the drink-drive alcohol limit.

At his inquest at County Hall in Chichester on Monday, West Sussex coroner Penelope Schofield heard Mr McCarthy, of Offington Drive, had battled alcohol addiction and depression since 2008 and had made previous suicide attempts.

In August last year, his elderly mother Jean McCarthy called Dr Karen Patel at Lime Tree Surgery in Findon Valley to say her son, who was living with her at the time, had “lots going on – felt depressed and had started drinking heavily again”.

The doctor said she prescribed Mr McCarthy the anti-depressant Dosulepin, after he scored 26 out of 27 on a suicide questionnaire, meaning he was considered at serious risk of self-harm.

Dr Patel said: “Mark said he wanted help – he wanted tablets and we discussed the risks of various anti-depressants.

“You have to judge patients independently and Mark was not sleeping and looking for sedation, so this particular drug seemed appropriate.”

The doctor initially prescribed 14 tablets, and ensured she booked a follow-up appointment on September 1. At the next appointment, Mr McCarthy was feeling much better.

Dr Patel said: “He had cut his alcohol intake, was sleeping and had made an appointment with a specialist.”

Because of this, Mr McCarthy was then prescribed 28 more tablets of Dosulepin.

However, in November, Lime Tree Surgery received a letter from Worthing Hospital stating Mark had been admitted to the A&E department drunk and suicidal.

The letter did not arrive until five days later, by which point Mr McCarthy had ordered a repeat prescription, followed by another batch a days later.

Both the coroner and family’s representative questioned why Mark was given repeat prescriptions for the medication after presenting as a suicide risk at the hospital.

Dr Patel said she could not comment as she was on sick leave by that point.

The family’s representative suggested the lack of scrutiny over Mark’s requests for repeat prescriptions may have allowed him to stockpile pills which he used to overdose on.

A post-mortem found the cause of death was due to Dosulepin toxicity contributed to by high blood alcohol level.

Toxicologist Dr Andrew Smith said Mr McCarthy had more than 20 times the therapeutic dose of Dosulepin in his system, which was described as being “consistent with fatal toxicity” and was most likely caused by taking an acute overdose of the drug.

The coroner recorded a verdict that Mark took his own life while suffering from depression, caused primarily by his alcohol dependence.

She also exercised powers under Rule 43 and said she would write to Lime Tree Surgery, urging staff to look at the way it issues repeat prescriptions and letters from outside agencies.

She said a more “joined-up” approach was needed and would be asking the surgery to review its processes.

The Herald contacted Lime Tree Surgery on Tuesday and was told the surgery would be “investigating the matter as soon as possible”.

To read the full story, with reaction from the family, see thsi week’s Worthing Herald (September 27 edition).

 

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