Thursday 26 February 2015

US tourist died from codeine prescribed after injuring herself carrying holiday bag, court hears

Gareth Naughton

Published 28/08/2014 | 14:29

The Dublin Coroners Court, Store St. Pic Tom Burke.
The Dublin Coroners Court, Store St. Pic Tom Burke.

An American tourist died after accidentally taking a toxic dose of codeine prescribed after she hurt herself pulling her bag while travelling to Ireland, an inquest heard.

Jonatha Skeete (68), a mother-of-two from Laurelton in Queens, New York, was pronounced dead at St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, on July 27 last year, just two days after she had arrived in Ireland on a family vacation.

Her husband Glen Skeete did not travel for the inquest at Dublin Coroner's Court but in his deposition read into the record said that, on the day of his wife's death, they had travelled down to Powerscourt in Wicklow and she slept for the whole journey.

“We got there and everyone else went in to take pictures. I stayed with Jonatha until they returned and I, then, went to take pictures. I was then summoned by my nephew-in-law that Jonatha had collapsed. I got there to see paramedics and a doctor working on her,” he said.

She was taken to hospital by ambulance. Mr Skeete said that they followed behind and when they arrived at the hospital they were told she had died.

A report to the coroner from Dr Rafid Khashan at the Dame Street Medical Centre said that she had attended the clinic on July 25 - the day she arrived in Ireland. “Jonatha was complaining of pain in her right shoulder and her right hip/buttocks area. Both these injuries were caused while pulling a heavy bag during her travels. Upon investigation, Jonatha was unable to abduct [move] her shoulder and was walking with a limp,” Dr Khashan stated.

He advised her to go to a physio and prescribed her seven days’ worth of anti-inflammatory painkiller Diclac, five days’ worth of benzodiazepine Anxicalm and a week’s worth of painkiller Tylex – a combination of paracetamol and codeine. The Tylex was prescribed at one to two tablets to be taken three times daily, as needed. 

In his deposition, Mr Skeete said that the pills “worked fine” on the day they were prescribed and the following day. At the request of coroner Dr Brian Farrell, gardaí contacted Mr Skeete this week to find out if his wife had been taking excessive amounts of the medication. Garda Alan Conlon said that Mr Skeete had confirmed that she was in “quite a lot of pain” from the injury and had been “self-medicating”. She had also been regularly taking baby aspirin for a heart issue. She had taken “quite a few” pills for the pain but Mr Skeete had been unconcerned because she was a nurse’s aide in the past, he said.

At post-mortem, toxic levels of codeine were found in her blood. The pathologist found that she died as a result of pulmonary aspiration of food into the airways as a result of codeine intoxication.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said he had no evidence that Mrs Skeete intended to harm herself. He returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

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