Liver disease ‘phenomenon’ led to Wigan woman’s death at 39
Drugs did not play a part in the death of a Wigan woman at the age of 39, a coroner has ruled.
An inquest was held to look at the sudden death of Stacey Hall, who became unresponsive while asleep in the early hours of January 4.
She had a prescription to take methadone daily and sometimes used illicit drugs after getting paid, while tests carried out after her death found drugs in her system.
But the inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court revealed this did not play a part in her death and she instead died from natural causes.
A post-mortem examination found Miss Hall had fatty liver disease.
While it could have been reversible, consultant pathologist Dr Emil Salmo said it was a “well-known phenomenon” that the condition can cause sudden death.
The causes of fatty liver disease can include diabetes, obesity and alcohol consumption, but the inquest heard none of these were factors and Miss Hall’s condition was likely to be “idiopathic”, meaning the cause was unknown.
Coroner Simon Nelson said: “It was a gradually occurring, medical condition that hadn’t run its full course. It wasn’t cirrhotic, it was reversible still, but it was a condition that’s known and certainly I have come across fatty liver disease, be it alcoholic or non-alcoholic, as being a cause of death for many, many years now.
“The only small crumb of comfort is that she died from natural causes, rather than anything untoward or unnatural.”
The inquest heard Miss Hall and her partner Michael Shaw were asleep on the sofa at their home in Ince on January 3.
Mr Shaw said: “The first time I woke up, at about 10.30pm, she was snoring and I nudged her a little and went back to sleep. She hadn’t woken up and was still snoring.”
He woke up again at around 2.30am and noticed she had stopped breathing.
Mr Shaw tried to wake her up, but she did not respond and he realised she was not breathing, so he called 999.
He carried out chest compressions in an attempt to resuscitate her, before paramedics arrived and took over.
Miss Hall was taken to Wigan Infirmary by ambulance, but had suffered a cardiac arrest and she could not be saved.
A post-mortem examination found her liver weighed 2,650g, compared to the expected weight of 1,400g, and there was evidence of fatty liver disease when a sample of tissue was examined under the microscope.
Toxicological tests showed methadone, opiates, cocaine and other substances in her system when she died.
But the inquest heard it was “unlikely” the methadone would have been toxic as she mostly complied with the prescription and was not a naive user.
Dr Salmo said her cause of death was fatty liver disease.
The inquest heard Miss Hall had used drugs for several years and was prescribed methadone to take daily.
She still occasionally used heroin or crack cocaine after being paid at work or receiving benefits.
Both Mr Shaw and Julie Cain, Miss Hall’s recovery worker, told the coroner that she mostly took the methadone as prescribed.
Miss Cain said that during their last appointment together in December, Miss Hall had been “really positive” and was excited to be fostering a dog.
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