| 5.1°C Belfast

Woman's fatal blood clot linked to contraceptive pill, inquest finds

A woman predisposed to blood clots had been taking the contraceptive pill for nine years before she collapsed and died suddenly, an inquest heard yesterday.

Jennifer O'Connell (33), a civil servant from Ballyvolane in Cork, died after developing a fatal blood clot in her lungs.

A non-smoker, she had been taking Mercilon, a third-generation contraception pill that carries a higher risk of clotting, particularly in the first year of use.

At a resumed inquest into her death yesterday, Cork City Coroner's Court heard Ms O'Connell had complained of breathlessness, pain in her lungs and swelling of the leg in the months leading up to her death.

On the morning of her death on February 23 last, she phoned her mother Carmel to say she felt unwell.

"Ten minutes later she had collapsed. She crawled to the door to let me in. I noticed her lips had gone black," Mrs O'Connell said.

She was rushed to Mercy University Hospital, where resuscitation attempts failed and she was later pronounced dead.

Ms O'Connell had been taking the pill since she was 24, her mother said. She visited her doctor complaining of breathing problems and a swollen leg seven months previously, after a trip to Lanzarote.

"She thought she'd pulled a muscle in her leg; it was swollen. She went to her doctor in September, the leg got better but she felt she couldn't catch her breath. It was on and off like that until she died," her mother said.

Ms O'Connell's GP, Niamh Coffey, said she was unaware of O'Connell's family history but she had not commenced her on the pill, a colleague had.

She said her patient had been advised of the risk of thrombosis.

When Ms O'Connell visited her GP five weeks before her death, she was diagnosed with a chest infection and asked to return for an X-ray if she experienced further problems.

On February 21, she returned again to her doctor complaining of pain in her lungs and trouble breathing. She was scheduled to have a chest X-ray the following week, but died two days later.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said the young woman died of a pulmonary venous thromboembolism (a massive clot), in association with a third-generation contraceptive pill.

Genetics played a major factor while the pill was an environmental factor, Dr Bolster said. Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a narrative verdict incorporating the cause of death.

Belfast Telegraph