Belfast Telegraph

Sabina Doll inquest: Mum queries if care student received played part in death

By Allan Preston

The mother of a former PhD student found dead in her Belfast flat last year has questioned if "red flags" were missed by mental health staff caring for her.

Sabina Doll (26) was born in Latvia and moved to Belfast in 2008 to begin her undergraduate degree in microbiology.

During her studies she developed serious problems with depression after being diagnosed with diabetes.

On June 27 last year police discovered her dead in her flat at Coburg Street in east Belfast.

A post-mortem found the cause of death to be poisoning by two drugs, believed to be unprescribed antidepressant medication she had ordered online.

She was last seen alive by her neighbours the previous evening when she went out jogging.

At her inquest in Belfast yesterday her mother Eva Doll represented the family in court and raised concerns about her daughter's mental health care in the months leading up to her death.

In particular, she questioned why a request to change her doctor and antidepressant medication was denied.

Her daughter had also been left upset by comments made to her by a male mental health nurse during a home visit on June 18, just over a week before her death.

Mrs Doll said medical staff were aware she was ordering medication online and asked why they had not removed it or sent her to a hospital.

A statement by Mrs Doll was read out to the court yesterday in which she described her daughter as "academically brilliant".

She eventually withdrew from her PhD course in 2014 after struggling to cope with her health.

Telling her mother she was not content to sit around all summer, she began working part-time as a care home assistant.

In September 2015 she complained to her mother that her antidepressant medication was not working, leaving her in a state of desperation and feeling "completely let down".

Sabina told her consultant psychiatrist, Dr Lougherin, that she wanted her medication changed.

After this was refused, she declined to see him for further treatment.

Mrs Doll said she feared this left her daughter without the correct medical care for eight months.

In the week before her death Sabina received a visit from mental health nurse Michael Corner of Belfast Trust's home therapy team.

Mrs Doll told the court her daughter felt that Mr Corner had unfairly criticised her for being "lazy" and staying at home, which may have been a "tipping point" in her death.

Dr Barbara Fair, a GP at the student health centre in Queen's University, responded to Mrs Doll's questions.

She said that although Sabina had refused to see Dr Lougherin from September 2015, he maintained a change in her medication would not have helped and said he had, in fact, continued to oversee her care until her death.

This included referrals to Belfast Trust's self-harm team in 2015 and arranging for the home therapy team to visit her on a daily basis in the weeks before her death. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Philip McGarry also noted in court that he believed Michael Corner had been making a sincere attempt to engage with Ms Doll about her treatment during his visit on June 18.

He added that her mental health problems could at times make her "prickly" with medical personnel trying to help her, and believed that it was likely she misinterpreted Mr Corner's comments as negative.

Dr McGarry added that medical staff had regularly asked Ms Doll to hand over the medication she bought online, but had no legal power to seize it.

He noted that a heavy-handed approach - including detaining her in hospital - would have shattered any trust she had with medical staff and only encourage her to buy more medication online.

A serious adverse incident (SAI) report was ordered by Belfast Health Trust following the death.

Dr McGarry said there was not any specific evidence Ms Doll had received poor care which could have impacted on her death.

The inquest continues.

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