Death of Belfast codeine addict Gemma-Louise McClean should be a lesson to others: Coroner
The dangers of misusing an over the counter drug have been highlighted at an inquest into the death of a 32-year-old Belfast woman.
Gemma-Louise McClean, from Glenside Parade in the north of the city, died on March 20 this year after taking codeine in an incident Coroner Patrick McGurgan ruled yesterday had been an accident.
After extending his condolences to the deceased's mother and partner, Mr McGurgan said that he wanted to highlight the dangers of codeine addiction.
"It is evident that Gemma had a problem with codeine for a number of years," he added.
"I am not quite sure that members of the public fully understand the dangers that its consumption can have on a person. Gemma has paid with her life as a direct consequence of her addiction.
"Codeine is something that can be bought over the counter, which makes the dangers even more concerning because it is something that it very accessible to the public.
"It is very important that, through Gemma's death, something positive may come - that other people realise how dangerous codeine is."
The coroner told the hearing that the victim had been suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea for three to four weeks, but had refused to attend hospital or an out-of-hours GP service when asked by her partner, Owen Warren.
He indicated that a call to the emergency services by Ms McClean may have been made accidentally.
The hearing was told that Gemma had visited numerous different chemists around Belfast to buy Nurofen tablets.
Mr Warren had asked Gemma to go to hospital. When he asked her if she had taken anything that morning, she replied that she had not, although he was not convinced.
He added that he had been considering taking her to hospital himself when two police officers arrived at the house, saying that a 999 call had been made from the address.
He sat with Gemma until an ambulance arrived to take her to the Mater Hospital, where he was told by a doctor that she had died.
Mr Warren told the coroner that Gemma had told him in the very early stage of their relationship that she took Nurofen Plus.
Mr McGurgan asked if he had known if she had taken 64 tablets. He replied he had not known that she had taken a "huge" amount.
PSNI Constable Mark McGinty, who arrived at the couple's home following the 999 call, said there had been "numerous" empty packets of Nurofen Plus strewn around the bedroom where he found Gemma.
The coroner said that when someone takes 64 tablets in one day, the possibility she had intended to take her own life was something that he had to consider, but he was satisfied her death was an accident.