Dublin woman who took own life spent years on prescribed opiates
Deirdre Kane’s family say ‘she couldn’t wait to get another prescription’
Deirdre Kane. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
The family of a Dublin woman who died by suicide claimed she had effectively become a drug addict from medication she had been prescribed.
The husband of Deirdre Kane (52), a mother of four from Baldoyle, told Dublin Coroner’s Court on Friday she had become “extremely reliant” on drugs for up to six years before her death.
Terry Kane told an inquest into his wife’s death that she had suffered from depression and severe pain since the birth of their youngest child in 2004.
“It was extremely tough,” he remarked. “She was very, very awkward to deal with and she couldn’t wait to get another prescription.”
Mr Kane said she had been prescribed opiates by Dr Bassam Naser, a Sutton-based GP, for around nine years up to June 2015. He said the impact of the drugs was to make her groggy and she spent most days in bed or on a couch.
Mr Kane gave evidence that his wife suffered major withdrawal symptoms any time she tried to come off such medication.
The couple’s eldest daughter, Sally (20), said the majority of the time her mother was “there but not there”.
The inquest heard Ms Kane’s family initiated High Court proceedings before her death against Dr Naser as well as Dr Josh Keaveny, a consultant in pain medicine at Beaumont Hospital, over the treatment provided to her.
Damien Tansey, solicitor for Ms Kane’s family, said his clients were concerned about her opiate addiction and the role played by Dr Naser over 15 years. In such circumstances, he questioned if it would be fair to record a verdict of suicide.
Dr Naser told the hearing that Ms Kane’s condition was characterised by severe chronic pain and depression which he described as “a vicious circle”.
The GP, who was given a 16-month jail sentence in June 2018 for tax offences, said his patient also had a severe anxiety disorder but did not like it when he referred her to consultants.
He described Ms Kane as “a challenging patient” who was “set in her nature and her demands”. Sometime she would appear in his surgery screaming with pain.
“I always did my best to provide medication that best suited her needs,” said Dr Naser.
Asked if he was concerned that she was becoming addicted to her medication, Dr Naser said he was worried about her use of sleeping pills and anti-depressants but not in relation to opiates. However, he admitted that he felt at one stage that Ms Kane was getting drugs elsewhere “from a non-medical source”.
Dr Keaveny said he did not believe the level of opiates either he or Dr Naser prescribed would create addiction problems. “The amounts were not excessively high,” he observed.
Dr Siobhan McHale, a consultant psychiatrist at Beaumont Hospital, told the inquest that she learned of Ms Kane’s use of cannabis and believed it had contributed to her unsettled condition. She also agreed her medical notes referenced the concern of Ms Kane and her husband about the high level of opiates that had been prescribed by Dr Naser.
Dr McHale outlined details of reported overdoses by Ms Kane and said the patient had written notes about “contemplating ending it all”.
Dr Tony Crosby, a GP who treated Ms Kane since 2016, said he had never prescribed her opiates as there was no physical explanation for her pain as well as concerns over their potential side effects and addictive nature.
He also recounted two incidents where Ms Kane had attempted to obtain a double prescription, which he described as “a major problem” and “a sign of addiction”.
The inquest heard Ms Kane has been discovered by her youngest daughter, then 12, in a bedroom at the family home in Grange Park, Baldoyle, on July 3rd, 2017, after having attempted suicide. She was pronounced dead four days later at Beaumont Hospital following the withdrawal of a life-support system.
Dr Catherine Ryan, who carried out a postmortem on Ms Kane’s body, said she suffered brain death due to a lack of oxygen, which resulted from her suicide attempt.
Returning a verdict of death by suicide, deputy city coroner Dr Crona Gallagher said following complex evidence, she could not make a direct link between the prescribing of opiates and Ms Kane’s death.