Woman, 21, died after locked door caused ‘significant delay’ for ambulance crew

St Pancras Coroner's Court. Picture: Polly Hancock

St Pancras Coroner's Court. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

A 21-year-old woman died after paramedics she called following an overdose were unable to get to her through a locked door for over thirty minutes.

Emergency crews were called to the junction of the A13 and Prince Regent Lane

Emergency crews were called to the junction of the A13 and Prince Regent Lane - Credit: Archant

Two paramedics who responded to her desperate call had to wait for police to break into the flat in Gascony Avenue where Eden Mollie Murphy was staying, an inquest at St Pancras coroner’s court heard.

Ms Murphy called emergency services at 10.19pm on April 15 to say she had taken an overdose of beta-blockers, and an ambulance was at the scene within ten minutes.

But the door to the flat - one of two accessed through a main door - was locked, and the paramedics – unsure which of the doors Ms Murphy was behind – called for police assistance.

By the time police arrived and forced the door, it was just gone 11pm, and Ms Murphy was found on the bed having a chronic seizure.

She then suffered a cardiac arrest and was given CPR to restart her heart before being rushed to the Royal Free Hospital, where she again stopped breathing.

Although her heart was restarted, doctors discovered her pupils were dilated, indicating she had sustained brain damage.

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Her parents were with her in intensive care by the time tests revealed she had suffered brain stem death. She died on April 18.

The inquest heard that Ms Murphy, who usually lived in Maiden Lane, suffered from social anxiety and had dropped out of university.

She was prescribed beta-blockers for her anxiety as well as anti-depressants, and received sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) but was not thought by mental health services to be at serious risk.

Although Ms Murphy had some money worries and was feeling anxious about upcoming job interviews, her GP said she seemed more positive at an appointment in February than she had done previously.

But a month later, on March 23, she complained of chest pain and was prescribed antibiotics after a series of tests at The Whittington Hospital.

Ms Murphy stopped taking her anti-depressants and beta-blockers while on antibiotics because she was concerned about the combined affects of the drugs.

Three weeks later, she took the fatal overdose.

The inquest heard statements from her parents in which they said they did not believe their daughter would intentionally take her life.

They said: “We have spoken to each other and to friends of Eden’s and we are all in agreement that Eden would not have taken an overdose on purpose as it would be completely out of character.”

She had dinner with her family and spoke to her mother on the phone in the days before the overdose, where she appeared “fine”.

Assistant Coroner Richard Brittain concluded that Ms Murphy’s death was accidental because he said there was no evidence it was suicide.

Giving the medical cause of death as “hypoxic brain injury caused by cardiac arrest caused by propananol (beta-blockers), he said: “It’s not clear what her thoughts were – there was no note, and she phoned for the ambulance herself.”

Although he said there was a “significant interval” before access was gained to the flat, Dr Britain did not consider whether that might have been a contributing factor to Ms Murphy’s death.

The law allows paramedics to break into properties in circumstances where there is a clear and immediate threat to life - but London Ambulance Service said in a statement this case did not meet that threshold.

Assistant Director of Operations, Peter Rhodes said: “Where it is obvious that there is a patient in a premises that requires urgent assistance then our crews do not wait for police assistance to force entry to the location. Examples would be where the crew can see the patient lying unresponsive on the floor.

“However, in situations where there isn’t a clear (visual) threat to life only the police can force entry.”