'Pill link' death: Newport woman, 23, was told to 'have spa day' by GP
A young Newport woman who died from a blood clot caused by the contraceptive pill was told to "get a massage or spa day" by a GP, just weeks before her death.
The parents of 23-year-old Charlotte Grace Foster told an inquest they felt her concerns and possible symptoms had "not been taken seriously" by a GP during a number of consultations.
Miss Foster, of Trinity Mews, died in January months after being prescribed the oral contraceptive pill Dianette.
She went into cardiac arrest after a thrombosis caused a "massive" embolism in her lungs – thought to have been caused by the pill.
Miss Foster was prescribed Dianette in August last year, which she hoped would also help her battle with acne. The customer category executive at Muller then joined Wellington Road Surgery in Newport.
During a review in October, Miss Foster's new GP, Dr Sunil Simon, said he found no reason not to continue her prescription.
But her mother told the inquest Miss Foster had complained of back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain and palpitations from autumn last year, and urged her daughter to go back.
She said: "Charlotte asked me to accompany her to the appointment because she didn't feel Doctor Simon had taken her concerns about chest pain, shortness of breath and back pain seriously. She was scared."
During the appointment, Mrs Foster told the inquest, they were told her back pain was a "mechanical problem" and that she should have a "massage or spa day".
Dr Simon said he could not recall that Miss Foster was in any respiratory distress or her telling him of any shortness of breath and there was no record on her medical notes.
Speaking at the inquest held at Shirehall yesterday, Dr Nigel Tuft, a consultant anaesthetist at Princess Royal Hospital where Miss Foster died, told the inquest the only "risk factor" for the blood clot had been taking the pill.
Dr Tuft said he believed she died of hypoxic brain damage, caused by a pulmonary embolism, caused by the oral contraceptive pill.
Cecilia and Stephen Foster, of Market Drayton, said their daughter had complained of chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, palpitations and leg pain.
The inquest heard they were symptoms of the blood clot, which moved from its origin – possibly in her pelvis or leg – to her lungs.
Following a phone consultation and face-to-face appointment with Dr Simon, Mrs Foster said they were disappointed and felt she was not being taken seriously.
Mrs Foster said: "After the appointment on January 4, Charlotte started to feel a bit better and apart from feeling tired was reasonably well.
"Six months ago today, Charlotte collapsed at work."
While in the ambulance, she was in a state of cardiac arrest. At Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, resuscitations continued and she remained stable until shortly before her death.
Mrs Foster said: "Charlotte died on January 25, and she is sorely missed."
Victoria Whelan, Miss Foster's best friend, told the hearing Charlotte had said her GP had dismissed her problems, and felt she wasn't being taken seriously. She said: "She told me he was dismissive and even with her mother there was unhelpful.
"The doctor told her again to get a massage – she said he had just brushed it off when she tried to explain her symptoms."
But Dr Simon said he assessed her back pain and believed it was a muscular, mechanical problem, rather than a side effect of the pill.
He told her to alleviate the pain with warming massages, or a spa day, and muscular treatment gels.
He told the hearing he did not "specifically recall" Miss Foster talking about shortness of breath but that it "may have been mentioned".
He said: "When I suspect pulmonary embolism there has to be serious clinical symptoms. When I observed Charlotte I did not observe that she had shortness of breath."
Shropshire coroner Mr John Ellery will consider his conclusion, which will be announced next week.
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