THE tragic death of a much-loved Stourbridge GP was accidental, a coroner has concluded.
Dr Liz Pope, from the Three Villages Medical Practice in Wollaston and Amblecote, was found dead in the bath at her home in Claverley on November 27 last year – two hours after crashing her car on a country lane on her way to work.
An inquest, held at The Guildhall in Shrewsbury on Friday May 23, was told the 38-year-old GP died of flecainide toxicity following the earlier collision with a cyclist.
Shropshire coroner John Ellery said there was "no evidence" to suggest Dr Pope, a key member of Dudley’s Clinical Commissioning Group, had intended to kill herself.
She may, however, have accidentally taken too much of the drug – which is used to regulate an irregular heartbeat.
He said: “It may well be that Dr Pope took more than the therapeutic level, it may have been because of stress because of the altercation with the cyclist in the collision, who knows?"
The inquest heard Dr Pope had received treatment for a hole in the heart some time ago and had been taking flecainide to maintain heartbeat rhythm.
Dr Tamara Sharma-Dekker, a GP at Claverley Medical Practice where Dr Pope was a patient, said the GP may have self-medicated to control palpitations after the crash but pathologist Dr Vivek Mudaliar and toxicologist Dr Colin Seneviratne couldn’t say how many tablets the respected doctor may have taken.
The level of flecainide in Dr Pope's blood was found to be 22 times higher than the standard therapeutic dose of up to 1mg but the inquest heard blood levels of the drug rise after death.
Dr Pope's husband Trevor said his wife had been busy at work as one partner was off sick and another was on leave but he said up until the accident it had been "a normal Wednesday morning".
After the collision at Broughton, which left Dr Pope’s car on its roof, Mr Pope collected his wife from the scene, took her home and then went out to get her prescription.
When he returned he found her dead in the bath.
The inquest also heard a vegetable knife was found on the side of the bath by investigating police officers but Mr Pope said he had no idea why it was there and how long it had been there.
He said: "We accidentally brought it back off holiday. I didn't really think anything of it until a policeman asked me whether I knew what it was."
He said his wife had shown no signs of depression and had just booked a riding holiday and he added that "she seemed fine" after the crash - just a little shaken.
The inquest heard Dr Pope took medication for a thyroid condition but was otherwise fit and healthy and was training for a triathlon.
Her father Rev Dr David Chantry said she "lived a fairly hectic lifestyle" and had been working 12 to 16 hour days for some time; she had also divulged anxieties about forgetfulness of late but he added that she was "very bouncy and excited about the things that were going to happen" including her next triathlon, a holiday in 2014 and volunteering at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The coroner said he could think of no reason why the doctor would want to commit suicide and he concluded her death was accidental.
He said: "She had everything to live for; she was looking to the future. If, for whatever reason, she took the flecainide it was not to kill herself - it was for some other reason."
Rev Dr David Chantry said of the conclusion: “It leaves us with some uncertainty but it does seem to fit with the facts."
Dr Adrian Wild, senior partner at the Three Villages Medical Practice, said: "It's absolutely out of the question that she would have done anything to harm herself.
“She's sorely missed by us all still."