Tragic Whaley Bridge man died after taking relative’s medication to help him sleep, inquest hears

Chesterfield Coroners' Court
Chesterfield Coroners' Court
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A ‘loving, caring family man’ died after taking his step-father in law’s medication in the hope it would help him sleep, an inquest heard.

Chesterfield Coroners’ Court heard that father-of-two, Matthew John Kerr, 38, of Cloughfield Close, Whaley Bridge, had been caring for his wife’s step-father, Andrew Lee, as he battled cancer.

On March 10 of this year, he was found by his wife, unresponsive, on the kitchen floor at Mr Lee’s house in Bingswood Avenue, Whaley Bridge.

Paramedics from the East Midlands Ambulance Service desperately battled to resuscitate Mr Kerr, but he was pronounced dead at the scene at 6.15pm.

Dr Sheikh Saleh, consultant pathologist at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, told the inquest that a toxicology report revealed that Mr Kerr had a cocktail of drugs in his system at the time of his death.

The drugs - which included fentanyl, ketamine, oxycodone - were all being used by Mr Lee to relieve pain and help him sleep while he battled cancer.

While the oxycodone and ketamine were found at ‘therapeutic’ levels, the fentanyl - an opioid used to relieve pain - was found in a ‘potentially lethal concentration’.

The pathologist said that even in low doses this drug can give a bad reaction if it has not been used before.

Dr Saleh told the hearing how it can affect the user’s breathing and this has knock-on effects on the heart and the brain, eventually leading to the user slipping into a coma from which they never wake up.

He stressed that Mr Kerr would not have suffered.

Mr Kerr’s widow, Rebecca, a primary school teacher, said in a written statement that on the day of his death she was called by Sunshine Nursery School to tell her that he had not collected their children as arranged.

She went to Mr Lee’s house where she knew her husband was due to go after he finished work at 1.30pm.

It was there that she discovered her husband unconscious.

After realising what he had done, she said she was ‘frustrated and annoyed’ that he had done something so ‘stupid’.

She described him as a caring man who took it upon himself to look after her step-father after he was diagnosed with cancer.

He had struggled with sleeping problems and depression in recent years and had found it difficult to share these problems with his family, the inquest was told.

Mrs Kerr admitted they used to joke about her husband taking Mr Lee’s medication to help him sleep but she never imagined he would actually do so. The coroner said there was no evidence these ‘throwaway’ comments had any impact on Mr Kerr’s actions.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, assistant coroner James Newman said that Mr Kerr was a ‘caring, loving family with friends and family throughout his community that he would do anything for’.

Mr Newman said: “Matthew took a course of action in the mistaken belief it would help him sleep and did not appreciate the potentially fatal consequences of his actions.”