Maida Hill woman chokes on chewing gum

A Maida Hill woman tragically died when she choked on chewing gum after an accidental overdose of pain relief tablets prevented her gag reflex from working, a court heard.

Clare Rowland, 38, of Ashmore Road, exceeded her dose of tablets to ease her back pain and sciatica but the medication had an unforeseen effect when it stopped her from dislodging chewing gum which became stuck in her throat.

She was found on the morning of April 28 when her daughter woke to see her mother slumped in the same seat she had been sat in the previous night.

Ms Rowland had previously suffered from anxiety and depression, Westminster Coroner’s Court heard, and had been referred to Westminster mental health service in 2010 with an extremely low mood. She had taken too much of her medication on a number of occasions if she felt the pain relief wasn’t working, the court heard.

Her sister had recently accompanied Ms Rowland at a meeting with her doctor to better manage her pain relief intake as it was “slightly out of control”.

However, despite her past problems with depression, the court heard Ms Rowland was in good spirits in the days leading up to her death. Her sister told the court she didn’t believe Ms Rowland wanted to harm herself.

She said: “She was happier at that time. There were a lot of really nice things going on.

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“It was the day before the Royal Wedding and she had come round and made jelly and ice cream for the celebrations. She was really happy and looking forward to the summer.”

Ms Rowland’s GP, Dr Jonathan Deere, had seen her the day before her death. He said: “I distinctly remember that she seemed to be more cheerful than I had seen her for some time.

“It was a terrible shock when I was informed of her death the next day, especially when she had seemed in such high spirits when I saw her.”

Coroner Fiona Wilcox ruled the death as accidental due to her pain relief tablets, which included codeine and fentanyl, causing her to become sedated and choke.

“Although Clare had suffered from anxiety and depression previously, in the time leading up to her death her mental state was described as better than it had been for some time,” she said.

“There was no intention at that time for Clare to deliberately take an overdose.”