Dying mother-of-eight trained husband to cope

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A MOTHER-of-eight who fought a long battle with cancer died after being treated with morphine - despite questions over whether she was allergic to the drug, an inquest heard.

In the months before Angela Millthorpe died she trained her husband Ian in how to look after their family, passing on her mothering skills so he was prepared.

Doctors had told the 48-year-old that the breast cancer she had beaten in 1993 had come back in her lungs and was spreading.

She set about making sure Ian, aged 49, knew how to run their home in Windmill Avenue, Grimethorpe, Barnsley, and how to bring up the kids without her.

Ian said that in the days before his wife passed away in Barnsley Hospital last October, she seemed well. He told a Sheffield inquest he thought the breast cancer was not responsible for her death.

He said: “I know she had cancer, but she seemed fit and well right up to the morning before she died. She was cleaning the kitchen surfaces and laughing and joking.”

He said on October 18 Angela started vomiting. She was admitted to hospital that afternoon and was given five courses of morphine for pain.

At 9pm she went into cardiac-respiratory arrest and died at 3.50am.

Ian said he was never asked whether his wife had any allergies. He had left her side for 10 minutes to collect medication from the car.

He and his wife believed she was allergic to morphine and other opioids such codeine and tramadol, he said.

But a pathologist who carried out an autopsy and a toxicologist who examined medical reports said it was unlikely Angela died from the morphine. They questioned whether she had even been allergic.

Consultant pathologist Dr Mathai Varghese said a post-mortem examination revealed Angela died of multiple organ failure as a result of disseminated malignancy - a spread of cancer throughout her body.

She said there was ‘extensive infiltration of tumours’ in her lungs, stomach, oesophagus, large intestines, kidney, ovaries and bone marrow.

“The blood clotting system was deranged. There were a number of microscopic blood clots throughout the body.

“Once the blood clots form, the platelets are used up in the blood and there are lots of final haemorrhages.”

Consultant biochemist Dr Stephen Morley said there was no evidence Angela had died from an allergic reaction to morphine.

Angela went into arrest after four doses of the drug - and he said if she had been allergic he would have expected a bad reaction after the first or second dose.

Coroner Chris Dorries said Angela displayed a flushed face and arm when given morphine before an operation in March 2008, but Dr Morley said flushing was a recognised side-effect of the drug, rather than an allergic reaction.

He said there was no evidence that Angela’s reported bad reactions to codeine or tramadol on other occasions were evidence of allergies, because dizziness, nausea and vomiting could also have been side effects.

The inquest continues.