A nurse died from a Codeine overdose after she became dependent on the painkiller because of severe neck problems and after she was the victim of a sex attack at a hospital, an inquest heard.
Katie Corrigan – who had been “desperate to become a nurse” – suffered with anxiety and depression and her family claimed at her inquest that she was overprescribed the painkilling drug.
The coroner was also told that Katie, who was 38 when she died last August, suffered a “traumatic event” when she was working at the West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance when she was the victim of a serious sexual assault as she walked to her car.
Her mother Christine Taylor told the Truro inquest that her daughter “did not tell us or her husband at the time” about the sex assault and “it just festered”.
But her mother said Katie suffered post tramautic stress syndrome (PTSD) as a result of the assault, Cornwall Live reports.
The inquest was told Katie went on to forge prescriptions for herself and she was then arrested and ended in court where she was given a suspended jail term and was struck off.
Her mother said: “She obviously lost her nursing registration and was devastated by this, her whole career she had worked really hard for.”
On Christmas Eve 2017 her husband revealed he was having an affair and he left her and their two children.
Mrs Taylor said Katie’s husband Steven told police about the forged prescriptions and claimed he was “controlling” during their divorce and about giving her access to their children.
She said Katie was admitted to hospital in 2018 with liver issues and had paracetemol in her system but in November 2019 she took Codeine she managed to buy over the internet and was “very unwell after that”.
Her husband refused access to the children during the Covid lockdown because Mrs Taylor was nursing and Katie did not see the children for five weeks, the inquest was told.
Specialist nurse Mrs Taylor said: “In lockdown she was devastated. She tried her best to keep herself going but her mood was very low.
“She was devastated her husband’s partner had more control over her children than she was allowed.”
Her family claim Katie was overprescribed Codeine by her GP surgery and that there were no investigations into her neck pain.
A post mortem said she died from a codeine overdose at her home in St Erth, Cornwall.
In a tribute to their daughter after the inquest, Katie’s parents, Fred and Christine Taylor, said: “Katie was a lovely person; kind, caring, loving and loyal. She had a wicked sense of humour and a smile that lit up the room. She was very much loved by her family, friends and work colleagues and absolutely adored by her two beautiful children.
“Katie experienced many traumatic events in her life, more than anyone should have to endure, which resulted in her battling and suffering with anxiety and depression.
“She engaged with the mental health services, she desperately wanted help, but unfortunately these were ineffective for Katie for various reasons – one being unable to access face-to-face consultations due to lockdown.
“Katie trained as a nurse, a career that she loved and one that she hoped to be in for life, but this was not to be.
“She was an integral part of our family, a wonderful daughter, sister and auntie and above all an excellent and loving mother.
“Katie is very much loved and will be missed every day by her family and friends.
“Her children are her lasting legacy and will be a constant reminder to everyone who knew and loved her.”
The inquest heard how Katie suffered from anxiety and depression.
Speaking at the hearing, Mrs Taylor, who is a specialist nurse in Cornwall, said her daughter was a “lovely person” but struggled with her mental health and previously suffered miscarriages.
She said: “She had suffered with depression and anxiety for some time and at some stage she developed a dependence on Codeine.”
She said her daughter had neck problems and was prescribed tablets to help deal with the pain.
She said: “She was in a controlling marriage, she had two children to look after, two jobs to sort out and I think her depression worsened.”
Referencing the serious sexual assault when she was working as a nurse at West Cornwall Hospital, Mrs Taylor said: “She had a traumatic event when she was leaving West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance. Somebody followed her to the car and seriously sexually assaulted her.
“This resulted in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she didn’t tell us, or her husband at the time, and it just festered basically.”
Katie then got a job as a practice nurse in Penzance, which she was “absolutely thrilled” about, but it was hard for her and completely different to what she was used to.
This was at The Morrab Surgery, where she used her mentor’s username and password to forge prescriptions. It came to light that she was trying to haul a number of pills and as a result she was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
In October 2018, Katie appeared at Truro Crown Court and was found guilty of two counts of fraud and one county of forgery. She received a 10-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months.
Mrs Taylor said: “She was devastated by this. Her whole career, all the work she worked really hard for, then her husband was basically training to be in the fire service and met someone else.
“He told Katie he was having an affair on Christmas Eve (2017) and she had to pretend everything was fine for the children on Christmas Day.”
When the lockdown started, her husband refused access to the children for five weeks, because Mrs Taylor was still working as a nurse and was unable to supervise visits.
Katie was found dead at her home in St Erth on August 9, 2020, with potentially fatal levels of [the drug] in her system.
Detective Constable Neil Goddard, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “Having met Christine and Fred on several occasions and spending some time with them trying to get a picture of Katie, it’s evident they loved and supported her through difficult periods of her life and unfortunately Katie had a history of issues with prescription medication.”
He said Katie was looking forward to a “new chapter in her life” and had made plans to complete a second year of university and had put a deposit on her own house at the time of her death. She was going to use the money from her part of the house sale to clear her debts and had made a will leaving her money in trust to her children.
DC Goddard added: “In the past Katie, it would appear, had considered suicide, from the notes found in her diary. If she had meant to kill herself I would have expected to find a current suicide note and to find her in bed having taken an overdose.”
He said he felt her death was accidental and not a deliberate act.
During the inquest it was revealed by Katie’s GP, Tamara Curnow, that Katie found a loophole in the surgery’s system which meant she was over-prescribed Codeine. Katie was able to request repeat prescriptions early.
After the loophole was identified by doctors, Katie found a way to obtain prescription drugs online.
Discussing her death, Coroner Andrew Cox said Katie had not been entirely forthcoming with her GP and “intentionally and deliberately” obtained excess prescription medication.
Despite the loophole which led to Katie over-prescribing Codeine from her GP, he said the surgery was not to blame for her death.
He said: “There’s a gap of over two years between the last prescription by the GP practice and Mrs Corrigan’s death so on the evidence of a matter of fact there’s no causal link between the over-prescribing of medication and Mrs Corrigan’s death.”
However, Mr Cox said he is concerned that Katie was able to access Codeine online and other prescription drugs online despite not receiving a prescription from her GP since April 2018.
He said: “My strong suspicion is that it’s come from online somewhere but we’ve not been able to explore today how it is that Mrs Corrigan was still able to source that medication.
“This is not something that’s come up before with me in relation to prescribed medication. It has done before in relation to dietary medication that’s led to a death where pills have come from outside the borders of this country.
“On the assumption that those online pharmacies are based in England or Wales it seems to me that’s a matter giving rise to concern that I need to explore further.”