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Medicine

Baby Amelia Cooper died after mother’s pain-relief patch became attached to her skin as they slept, UK inquest says

Coroner calls for warnings after ruling that fentanyl pain patch delivered a lethal dose of the opioid to baby Amelia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 9:07am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 9:18pm

A baby girl has died after her mother’s powerful pain-relief patch apparently became attached to the child’s skin as the pair slept in the same bed.

Fifteen-month-old Amelia Cooper was taken to hospital after she was discovered lifeless in the bed of her mother, Sara Talbot, in St Austell, Cornwall.

She could not be saved and a postmortem found that she had high levels of the opioid fentanyl in her bloodstream.

The coroner, Emma Carlyon, said the cause of death was fentanyl toxicity but she said it was not clear how the patch had become attached to the baby. Despite a police investigation the patch was not found.

Carlyon said: “A patch was missing from her mother’s body. It is not clear how the patch came to be attached to Amelia, especially as she was wearing a pyjama top covering the area. It is not clear when, where or how the patch came to be attached to Amelia.”

The coroner will write to National Health Service chiefs and suggest a nationwide warning is issued. Royal Cornwall hospitals NHS trust said efforts were being made to make all GPs and pharmacists in the southwest aware of the possible hazards.

Amelia’s father, Ben Cooper, 27, a truck driver, paid tribute to his daughter. He said: “She lit up our lives with her cheeky smile, and her funny little ways – she was adored by us all.

“During the inquest we have heard an immense amount of information from experts including pathologists, to the first responders and paramedics who were on the scene that dreadful morning we lost her.

“The outcome today has given us a line we can now draw under and enable us to move forward, but we will never forget her. She will always be in our hearts, she deserved to live a long and happy life but was so drastically taken from us.”

Amelia, was described as a normal and healthy child before her death in June 2016.

The pathologist, Debbie Cook, told the hearing at Bodmin magistrates court: “There were no external injuries to contribute to the death, there was no natural disease.”

Cook said blood samples revealed a level of fentanyl in Amelia that would have been enough to kill an adult. She said the patch must have been attached firmly to allow the drug to be taken in though the skin.

“The drug can cause a reduction in breathing, a reduction in blood pressure and in some cases seizures,” Cook said. “When levels become high there will be a coma, and in high levels such as this it can be fatal.”

Police looked into the case but did not find evidence that a third party was involved, the inquest heard.

Previously, Talbot paid tribute to her daughter on Facebook. “Our daughter was amazing, she was so clever, beautiful and was my entire life. She always will be,” she wrote.

“Her smile lit up so many people’s lives and I know many, many people, even those who met her only once, will never forget our precious and special cheeky little princess.”

Talbot declined to comment after the inquest.

Fentanyl patches are sometimes prescribed to people who cannot take morphine orally or have side effects from it.