The tragic dangers of taking other people’s medication have been spelled out by a Doncaster coroner after a healthy young man died from using powerful painkillers for an injured knee.
Relatives of Simon Fraser, aged 37, have been left in ‘huge distress’ after an aunt thought she was doing him a good turn by giving him one of her morphine-based skin patches, used to ease the pain of her stomach cancer.
Simon’s girlfriend, Suzanne Burns, stuck the Fentanyl patch on his shoulder to alleviate the pain from his torn ligament, went out to work – and returned to find him dead in bed, the inquest heard.
Deputy Coroner Fred Curtis, recording a conclusion of accidental death, said Simon’s sudden and unexpected death provided ‘a salutary lesson for all who are tempted to take drugs prescribed for friends and relatives in the belief it would relieve a problem’. “The dangers are so obviously illustrated by this,” he said. “Simon lost his life in the most innocent of circumstances, and those who are tempted to use medication intended for another would do well to bear in mind the risk taken each time they do so.”
Simon, of New Street, Carcroft, ran a timber reclamation business and was removing floorboards from an old school in Birmingham when he fell about 5ft down a hole he had not seen.
After driving back to Doncaster he stayed overnight at his girlfriend’s flat in Arksey Lane, Bentley, but his knee was hurting him so much in the night he called for an ambulance.
Doctors at Doncaster Royal Infirmary X-rayed the joint and found no break, so prescribed paracetamol to ease the pain and sent him home.
When his family heard about his plight, his father, Richard Fraser, gave him some of his own Tramadol painkillers – and his aunt, Mhairi Pounder, passed on one of her 100mcg Fentanyl patches, which an expert said are 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Toxicologist Dr Stephen Morley said the effect on Simon of the patch, the highest dose available, would be significant because it causes loss of consciousness and depressed breathing.
Fentanyl is a Class A controlled drug and to supply it to another is illegal – but police have decided not to prosecute anyone in connection with the tragedy.
Det Sgt Andy Knowles told the inquest: “We are satisfied everyone who had given medication to Simon had done so in a genuine attempt to help him. It would not be in the public interest to pursue charges.
“It was felt to be an unnecessary prosecution given the upset the family have gone through.
“There is huge and genuine distress within the family.”
Simon’s parents were both too upset to attend the inquest. His mother, Elaine, said in a written statement: “We are still trying to come to terms with his death. It has been a very difficult period for us and detrimental to our health.”
In a quirk of fate it was revealed the same ambulance crew who took Simon to hospital with his leg injury also attended the flat when he was found dead three days later.
Paramedic Rachel Bramall, who spotted the Fentanyl patch on his shoulder, admitted to being affected by the tragedy still.
She said: “It’s stayed with me because it was so unexpected. He seemed a nice, hard-working lad, and the fact he died is such a shock.”