Mix of painkillers caused Wigan dad’s death

Bolton Coroner's Court
Bolton Coroner's Court

A dad who required surgery for chronic back pain died after taking a mixture of medication to ease his symptoms, an inquest heard.

Martin Heaton, 38, was found dead in his flat on Saddleback Road, Norley Hall, on June 1.

A friend and neighbour, Michael Allen, raised the alarm after not seeing him for a few days and police forced their way inside.

An inquest held at Bolton Coroner’s Court yesterday heard Mr Heaton had previously worked in a warehouse for a catalogue company but left in November last year due to ill health.

He had two slipped discs in his back after an injury and saw a consultant at Royal Salford Hospital in May with a view to having surgery on his spine.

The discs were pushing on his bladder, causing a great deal of pain.

Mr Heaton did not tell his family the outcome of the appointment, but the inquest heard he seemed to have a setback and began drinking.

He had started drinking heavily after his mother’s death in 1996 and became estranged from his family.

But he made efforts to address his drinking and reconcile with his family in the year before he died.

His father John Heaton told the inquest that while his son did not tell him about the appointment, he thought he may have been concerned about the surgery and the possibility of something going wrong.

Mr Heaton, who had a 14-year-old daughter, had been prescribed medication by his GP to ease his back pain.

The inquest heard from Dr Naveen Sharma, the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination on Mr Heaton’s body.

He said a very small amount of alcohol was found in his blood.

Tests also showed evidence of pregabalin, diazepam and dihydrocodeine, prescribed medications used to tackle anxiety, insomnia and pain.

While none of the drugs were at levels high enough to be fatal, their combined effects could be dangerous.

Dr Sharma said: “They have similar effects on the central nervous system, they suppress the central nervous system.”

The inquest was told unused medication was found at Mr Heaton’s home after his death.

Coroner Alan Walsh felt the remaining medication, along with the lack of a note or Mr Heaton expressing wishes to hurt himself, suggested he did not intend to take his life.

He said: “I am satisfied that the medications that he sadly took and caused his death were prescribed medications for a particular problem, being his chronic back pain. I am satisfied not one of these medications was at a level that would cause his death.”

He said Mr Heaton may have taken too many tablets to ease his pain, leading to his death.

Mr Walsh recorded a verdict of misadventure.

He said: “I am satisfied that he didn’t intend this to cause his death. His intention was, on the balance of probabilities, to relieve his pain.”

After the verdict, Mr Heaton’s father John said to the coroner: “I think your finding is correct. I went to see a medium - I know plenty of people don’t believe that - but all he kept saying to me was, ‘Tell my dad I’m sorry’, which points to your findings.”