Family of woman who died after overdose questions GP’s prescription

Coroner says overdose was ‘inadvertent’ and returns verdict of death by misadventure

Louise Chapman  took 48 painkillers  over two day.

Louise Chapman took 48 painkillers over two day.


The family of a woman who died after taking an accidental paracetamol overdose has questioned her GP’s decision to prescribe a week’s worth of the painkiller Solpadol given that she was addicted to codeine.

Louise Chapman (41), Kilrush, Co Clare, took 48 Solpadol tablets over two days after she was prescribed the drug to relieve pain from a fractured foot. Solpadol contains a significant amount of paracetamol as well as codeine and Ms Chapman went into liver failure. She died at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin on July 14th last year.

Fractured foot
Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that her GP Dr James Prendiville prescribed the Solpadol four days earlier when she came in having fractured her foot while drinking heavily. She was addicted to codeine, he said, and took large amounts of Nurofen Plus when it was available over the counter.

To prevent liver damage, he had transferred her to a plain codeine product which was subsequently taken off the market. She was then prescribed Solpadol. In 2009 he transferred her to Tramadol, dispensed weekly because she was “always at high risk for accidental or suicidal self-harm”.

When she came to him with the fracture, she “pleaded” with him to prescribe her Solpadol and he gave her a week’s supply with the proviso that she re-engage with psychiatric services. Her pain would have lasted beyond a week, he said.

Ms Chapman was admitted to Mid-Western Regional on July 12th after she began coughing up blood after taking 48 Solpadol over two days. She was in liver failure and was transferred to St Vincent’s hospital, where she died two days later.

Her sister Tracey Chapman asked Dr Prendiville from the court why he had given a week’s prescription when he knew of her sister’s codeine addiction.

Dr Prendiville said he was treating her “humanely”, she had been on weekly prescriptions for years and was “well informed” of the toxic effects of paracetamol in Solpadol.

‘No evidence’
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that there was “no evidence at all” that Ms Chapman intended to take her own life.

She appeared to have “inadvertently” taken the paracetamol overdose while “feeding” her addiction to codeine and relieving her pain, he said. He returned a verdict of death by misadventure.