SEAFORD: Back pain blamed for pensioner’s suicide

A PENSIONER from Seaford took an overdose and slashed his wrists after suffering for weeks with back pain, an inquest has heard.

Kenneth Miller had seen his doctor on several occasions about the problem which he noticed shortly after having an operation for which he received a spinal anaesthetic.

The 87-year-old, who had osteoporosis, was admitted to Eastbourne DGH on June 30 last year after taking around 40 to 50 co-codamol tablets and cutting his wrists. Despite making progress he died on July 2.

Health professionals at the inquest did not believe the spinal anaesthetic - used in the procedure because of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - was the cause of Mr Miller’s pain.

An inquest into his death showed he had a perforated ulcer and his cause of death was given as peritonitis which was caused by a perforated duodenal ulcer caused by the overdose. A contributory factor was given as aschemic heart disease.

The inquest heard the Darwell Drive resident had an operation, following problems with his bladder, at the Esperance Hospital on April 19 and was released days later.

His doctor, Heather Tidbury from Seaford Medical Practice, told the inquest Mr Miller had seen her on April 30 saying he was suffering from low back pain and was later prescribed co-codamol.

She was requested to visit her patient at home and carried out an examination but found no spinal tenderness or neurological signs.

After a spell in East Dean Grange Nursing Home the retired marine insurance broker was visited again by Dr Tidbury and admitted to occasional fleeting suicidal thoughts but did not declare any intent to take his own life.

Mr Miller, who was given anti-depressants, was described by his son, Keith Miller, as being apprehensive before the operation.

He added that when his father returned home from the nursing home a makeshift bedroom was made downstairs and while staying at his father’s address, he could hear him crying out in pain. He said he had no inkling his father would try and take his own life.

Consultant urologist William Lawrence, who had known Mr Miller for years and carried out the operation, said the surgery was a straightforward case.

He said, “I went through the hospital records and he wasn’t in pain at the time of the surgery.

“I honestly don’t believe the pain in his back was related to the spinal anaesthetic, it doesn’t add up in my mind.

“There was no indication of pain during his time in hospital after the operation.”

Dr Janet McGowan, a consultant anaesthetist, was asked to see the Seaford resident for a pre-anaesthetic assessment. She said, “I wasn’t aware he was extremely anxious about this approach (spinal anaesthetic).”

Deputy coroner Joanna Pratt recorded a verdict of suicide.