Family’s questions after St Leonards dad dies from accidental overdose of prescription drugs

Inquest news
Inquest news

The family of a St Leonards man who died from an accidental drug overdose have questioned the amount of prescription drugs he was on at the time of his death.

Samuel Whitcher, 40, was found unresponsive at his home in Bohemia Road, St Leonards, on January 17, 2019.

At an inquest into his death, held in Hastings on Tuesday (September 10), the court heard Mr Whitcher had developed an addiction to opiates which had been prescribed to him to help manage pain from kidney stones.

A toxicology report found, at the time of his death, the levels of prescription drugs within his system ‘exceeded therapeutic quantities’.

The inquest heard Mr Whitcher had first been prescribed medication to assist the pain from kidney stones about 20 years ago.

In June 2018, he came off medication for a month but by November the pain had returned. This time he was taking three times the recommended amount, the court heard, due to an error with his prescription.

His wife Rebecca told the court that while Mr Whitcher was taking the incorrect amount, he was found unconscious on two separate occasions – once in the bath and another while caring for their young son.

Once his medication was reduced, Mr Whitcher’s pain worsened and in January he returned to his GP on three occasions – January 3, 7, and 9 – to request his weekly prescription.

His mum Elizabeth told the court: “He was a difficult person. He was addicted – Sam admitted that.

“That’s why he went to his dad’s (to get off the drugs in June 2018).

“Anyone who knows about opiates knows that when someone comes off them they should be monitored because of the affects they have on the body.”

When asked why Mr Whitcher had been given weekly prescriptions on each of his visits in January 2019, Dr Rathinasuamy Sivanandhem, a GP at Warrior Square surgery, said practitioners are faced with a difficult decision when a patient presents themselves in such pain.

He said: “When a patient is in pain, it is very difficult not to address the concern at that point. That was the reason (Mr Whitcher was prescribed the drugs) looking at the records.

Rebecca, who found Mr Whitcher on the morning of his death, told the court she did not believe her husband had intended to take his own life due to the fact they had a young son and they had booked a holiday to Wales for July just two days previously.

His mother added: “A lot has been said about Sam’s dependency on drugs but he was loving and a great person until it all went downhill.”

Senior coroner for East Sussex Alan Craze returned a conclusion of drug-related death.

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