Painkillers led to Lisa’s death

Lisa and Oliver Portrait Session
Lisa and Oliver Portrait Session

FENLAND councillor Kit Owen spoke of his shock after discovering a mass of prescription drugs at his daughter’s house, following an accidental overdose that caused her death.

Former March Mayor Mr Owen found the medicines at Lisa Owen’s Wisbech St Mary house after she died on January 3 of a massive overdose of painkillers, prescribed to her for chronic back pain caused by a degenerative spinal condition.

At the inquest into her death, held in March on Friday, Mr Owen said: “Because she was a highly qualified medical person, I think the doctors gave her what she asked for.

“She was in a lot of pain and I think she took what she thought she could take; she self-treated.”

Miss Owen (42) was an experienced Naval nurse before her illness forced her to stop working and Mr Owen believes this is why she was allowed to have “a huge quantity” of medications in the house.

A post mortem examination performed by Dr Martin Goddard, of Papworth Hospital, found no natural cause for her death. But tests revealed a blood alcohol level of two-and-a-half times the drink drive limit and levels of painkiller 20 times more than therapeutic levels.

Dr Goddard explained that Miss Owen was taking fentanyl – a painkiller 100 times more potent than morphine – through a patch on her skin that gave a controlled dosage. They would have expected to see levels of around five to six milligrammes per litre of blood, even in a person who has used the drug for some time, but tests on Miss Owen revealed a level of 100 milligrammes per litre.

Dr Goddard gave the cause of death as opiatal toxicity through administration of fentanyl.

In addition to the painkillers, Miss Owen also took anti-depressants for mental health issues, although she did not have a diagnosis of depression at the time of her death.

She had previously battled alcohol problems, going through a rehabilitation programme in 2009.

Speaking to coroner William Morris, Mr Owen said: “Lisa was still suffering the effects of the loss of her mother and a divorce. She was experiencing a lot of stress.”

He felt the fact January 3 was a Bank Holiday may also have contributed, as his daughter would not have been able to speak to her normal doctor if she was experiencing a lot of pain.

Coroner William Morris had a statement from Miss Owen’s GP, Dr J Raychaudhuri, who gave a breakdown of her medical history and the cocktail of drugs she had been prescribed.

In October 2010, Miss Owen had successful spinal surgery and her pain medication was lowered. She had felt better and was even considering being a bone marrow donor for her brother, who had been diagnosed with aplastic amaemia.

But in December her pain got worse and her medication was increased.

In concluding the evidence, Mr Morris said: “Let me make it absolutely clear that there is no evidence to support a finding of suicide. We are looking at something completely different.

“In many cases where there have been a lot of drugs taken, the verdict may be abuse of drugs, but in this case I am giving a verdict of accidental death.”