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Coroner warns of over-the-counter drug dangers

A CORONER has highlighted the dangers of over-the-counter drugs after hearing how a pregnant Limavady mother-of-nine's accidental overdose had led to a “double tragedy.”

Aisling Newland, who was 30 weeks pregnant with her tenth child, was found dead in an upstairs bedroom at her Edenmore Park home on August 23, 2016.

During an inquest at Coleraine Courthouse, her aunt and next of kin Donna McLaughlin claimed 37-year-old Ms Newland should have received better care from social services.

The court heard how packets of various medication had been found in every room of Ms Newland's home, including some prescribed to her partner and two other individuals.

Giving his evidence by video link, State Pathologist Professor Jack Crane said she had died from bronchopneumonia and acute liver necrosis, as well as poisoning by dihydrocodeine, codeine and paracetamol.

The court heard how Ms Newland was known to a number of services within the Western Trust including social services, addiction services and maternity, but she had a history of failing to turn up for appointments.

This had led to her being discharged from the addiction service; information which wasn't always shared or accessible to other services within the Trust.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan was critical of the lack of communication between these services, adding: “I find there was insufficient information sharing and a missed opportunity in the care of the deceased.”

Mr McGurgan also said that the reliance on patients to keep different services updated "highlighted shortcomings" and there had been "insufficient joined-up" communication, including a failure of social services to inform addiction services in 2016 that Ms Newland was pregnant.

Following Ms Newland's death, changes were introduced by the Western Trust to improve procedures and computer systems.

Mr McGurgan said: “I am very pleased to see that learning has been taken on board; it is an on-going process for these recommendations to be implimented.

“In the ideal world I would like to see a centralised computer system; that is something that needs to be continually looked at; lives do not come with any price.

“We should be trying to ensure full sharing across all the trusts and services.

“It absolutely beggars belief that in the 21st century, in a place as small as Northern Ireland, we have different computer systems.”

The Coroner described Ms Newland as “a troubled young lady” who “certainly had her crosses to bear” and said her death was "a double tragedy.” He stressed that it was important to remember Ms Newland's baby, who was at 30 weeks' gestation.

He added: “It is difficult to know what the answer is to trying to educate people on the dangers of drugs; this is a very important message.

“There is a very serious warning for members of the public to be vigilant about the amount of codeine and paracetamol they are consuming and to only take the doses prescribed.”

He also stressed the importance of not taking drugs prescribed for other people.

Earlier Ms McLaughlin told the court that she believed her niece was trying to address her addiction problems and was trying to turn her life around so she could keep the baby she was expecting.

Ms McLaughlin was critical of the level of care she felt her niece received earlier in her life, adding: "Had she (Ms Newland) got the care she needed then things might have turned out different.

"In my opinion social services is a bit of a joke; social services has definitely let us down a lot; there are not enough bodies.”

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