Joan Ita Bergin, 58, had been suffering from a cough and chest aches for around a week in December last year and had been drinking sachets of Lemsip to manage the symptoms. When she started vomiting coffee-coloured bile, Ms Bergin was rushed to hospital where tests revealed she had “significantly elevated” liver enzymes and low oxygen levels.
The mother deteriorated and died after being diagnosed with liver failure.
Preston Coroner’s Court yesterday heard how Ms Bergin drank a sachet of Lemsip every four hours, but also told doctors she had sometimes taken more than the recommended amount of paracetamol.
Kate Bisset, deputy coroner in Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, recorded a finding of misadventure, which is when a death is caused by the unintended consequences of an intentional act.
She said: “Joan Ita Bergin died on January 7, 2022 at Royal Preston Hospital from multiple organ failure caused by an unintentional overdose of paracetamol.”
Pneumonia and acute liver failure were also causes of death, secondary to unintentional paracetamol overdose. Contributing factors have been cited as alcohol-related liver disease and esophageal ulceration, Lancs Live reports.
Doctors informed Ms Bergin that no other treatment options were available after her deterioration.
Her liver was already sensitive, according to the inquest, as Ms Bergin also had a history of excessive drinking.
The mother, from Lostock Hall, Lancashire, drank three to four cans of cider each day before work and up to 10 cans at weekends, the coroner said.
Ms Bisset continued: “He (Ms Bergin’s son) says his mum was normally healthy but she rarely ate much, one full meal a week, and otherwise snacked on things like marmalade on toast. She drank a lot of water but sometimes fainted from lack of food.”
In hospital in January, Ms Bergin was given Parvolex, an antidote to an overdose of paracetamol, but continued to have bouts of vomiting blood.
Lemsip contains a decongestant and paracetamol, the latter relieving pain by reducing the production of prostaglandins in the brain and spinal cord.
But too much paracetamol is dangerous because it can quickly damage the liver.