A brilliant young consultant exhausted from working "crazy hours" died while on duty at his hospital after injecting himself with drugs, an inquest heard today.
Sid Watkins, 44, a paediatrician, worked a nightshift before flying to Germany on a daytime mercy mission, then returned to his hospital half an hour before starting another night duty.
Fellow doctors became worried when he went missing during the evening and failed to answer his bleeper. Colleagues later found the consultant slumped in a lavatory cubicle. Two syringes containing a powerful anaesthetic called fentanyl lay next to his body.
The inquest heard that Dr Watkins, who was often on duty for 80 to100 hours a week, may have used the drug to "escape the pressures of work".
On the morning of March 13, Dr Watkins finished his nightshift at Southampton then set off at 7.30am to collect a poorly baby from Germany. A nurse, Sister Elizabeth Poingdestre, who accompanied him on the trip, told the hearing she was worried because the doctor was "pale and obviously tired".
The inquest heard that stocks of fentanyl went missing during the flight from Germany to Edinburgh. Dr Watkins was in charge of all medication on the trip.
There was no evidence he had previously used the drug, a general anaesthetic which is more likely to be fatal if administered quickly without medical assistance. Dr David Rowe, a bio-chemist, told the hearing the drug could have been used "to escape the pressures of work".
The Southampton coroner, Keith Wiseman, recorded a verdict of accidental death. He added: "I'm quite satisfied Dr Watkins did not contemplate taking his own life."
After the inquest, Dr Watkins' wife Camille, who was expecting their third child when he died, said in a statement: "Sid told me a few weeks before he died that he was the happiest he had ever been in his life."
- More about: