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'Bubbly' 22-year-old's death prompts coroner to question online drug sales

Gemma MacDonald, from Stowmarket, managed to buy a huge quantity of tablets online, prompting a coroner to question the sale of medication on the internet Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Gemma MacDonald, from Stowmarket, managed to buy a huge quantity of tablets online, prompting a coroner to question the sale of medication on the internet Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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A coroner has questioned online drug sales after a "bubbly" 22-year-old from Suffolk managed to purchase a huge quantity of tablets from regulated websites.

Gemma MacDonald, from Stowmarket, died on July 22 after taking a "massive" overdose of medication she bought online, an inquest in Ipswich heard.

Described by her family as "a bit rebellious but loveable", the inquest at Suffolk Coroner's Court heard Miss MacDonald had suffered mental health issues in the past, including anxiety and depression, and had reported hearing voices.

She had not intended for the overdose to be fatal, area coroner Jacqueline Devonish concluded, before announcing she would be issuing what is known as a 'regulation 28' report to prevent future deaths.

The coroner will be writing to two medication companies over what she described as a "systemic issue", adding: "You have got medication being sold in massive quantities by regulated organisations online."

'She was very much someone that wanted to live'

Miss MacDonald told paramedics on the way to West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, where she later died, that she regretted ingesting the tablets but voices had told her to do so.

Her mother Alison added: "She was very much someone that wanted to live."

The second day of Miss MacDonald's inquest heard evidence from her care coordinator Molly Thornton, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), who was the only person treating the 22-year-old from May until her death in July.

Miss MacDonald was making good progress, she told the inquest, and said techniques they had discussed to help with the voices and low mood appeared to be working.

She was very willing to engage, showed no signs of self-harming and had a safety plan in place to deal with any suicidal thoughts, Ms Thornton added.

However, a wall planner and diary the 22-year-old carer kept suggested otherwise and indicated her mental health was deteriorating - particularly in July.

MORE: Family's tribute to 'fun-loving 22-year-old' as inquest begins

Ms Devonish also raised concerns that medical records held by NSFT indicated she had first accessed their services in August 2018, when her GP and family said she had actually been under their care since 2011.

She said trust bosses should note her concerns about Miss MacDonald not seeing a psychiatrist for a medication review while under the care of the Stowmarket Integrated Delivery Team (IDT), which she moved to from Ipswich in May, but added this would have been an individual issue for the care coordinator to manage.

Recording a narrative conclusion, the coroner said: "Gemma died following a massive overdose of medication purchased online and taken at home on July 21, 2019.

"It is clear from the evidence that she didn't intend the overdose to be fatal, but rather she was more likely to have been responding to voices; the balance of her mind being disturbed."

Miss MacDonald died of multi-organ failure due to a mixed drug overdose brought on by depression, the inquest heard.

It was clear Miss MacDonald was "intelligent, likeable and bubbly", Ms Devonish said, before expressing condolences to her family.

The 22-year-old's step-sister, Lorna Hicks, described her as "hilarious" - saying she always had a "big smile" on her face.

Her mother Alison added: "She could be a bit rebellious, but she was still just so loveable."

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