Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Drug Addict Nurse Death Addict Mum 'Doctor Shopped' for Drugs; What Went Wrong? Inquest Will Probe . .

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Drug Addict Nurse Death Addict Mum 'Doctor Shopped' for Drugs; What Went Wrong? Inquest Will Probe . .

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Cumming stuart.cumming@thechronicle.com.au

THE death of a drug-addicted nurse has sparked a coronial inquest into the professional supervision the Toowoomba woman was under.

A pre-inquest hearing before Coroner Christine Clements in Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday heard details of the circumstances leading up to the death of wife, mother-of-two and Toowoomba Hospital critical care nurse Katie Lee Howman.

Counsel assisting the Coroner Dr Anthony Marinac said Mrs Howman was 30-years-old when she injected herself with a fatal dose of the opioid Fentanyl at her home on the morning of December 21, 2013.

He said Fentanyl was an opioid many times stronger than morphine or even heroin.

"She died shortly afterwards and was discovered by her husband when he returned home at lunch time," Dr Marinac said.

It was not the first time Mrs Howman had injected herself with the drug.

The court heard that on January 13, 2010, Mrs Howman had taken Fentanyl from a patient and injected while at work as a Toowoomba Hospital nurse.

"On that occasion, she also overdosed and was saved by the quick actions of her hospital colleagues."

Mrs Howman was formally suspended from practice on March 9, 2010, and allowed to return to practice on August 6.

She was subject to limitations including supervision, a prohibition on contact with drugs of addiction and frequent drug screening.

Dr Marinac said Mrs Howman had seen a psychologist and a psychiatrist before returning to work from suspension for treatment of anxiety and depression.

He said she also had a number of other medical issues, particularly in relation to her hips.

The court heard Mrs Howman became addicted to opioids Tramadol and Oxycodone prescribed in the management of her pain and acquired the drugs through a process of "doctor shopping".

At its height, Mrs Howman obtained, between October and December, 2012, more than 750 Oxycodone tablets of varying strength from 11 doctors. …

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