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Friday 21st October 2016

Suicide verdict for doctor

17th October 2006

A hospital consultant committed suicide in her office by administering a lethal dose of muscle relaxant, an inquest has heard.

Forty-four-year-old Fiona Clarke was head of the critical care services department at Middlesbrough's James Cook Memorial Hospital. Her death had been linked to stress caused by tight budget restrictions at the trust which was around £21 million in debt.

Teeside deputy coroner Gordon Hetherington ruled out a link between Dr Clarke’s death and financial problems at the South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital. He told the inquest at Teesside Coroner's Court in Middlesbrough that she may have suffered from general depression and mild stress, possibly connected to her everyday job in critical care.

He recorded a formal verdict that Dr Clarke had committed suicide but added that it was at a time when the balance of her mind was temporarily disturbed.

Dr Clarke’s long-term partner, Dr Richard Hartley is a consultant radiologist with the same health trust. He told the inquest how he had discovered her body, after being unable to contact her. He said she had seemed quiet and withdrawn in the weeks leading up to her death and both had agreed she was suffering mild depression, but it was not severe enough to seek help. Her family had a history of mental illness, he said.

A post mortem revealed Dr Clarke had injected a muscle relaxant called Atracurium through a motorised syringe driver into the back of her hand, which the inquest heard induces paralysis.


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