The doctor who examined a man hours before he died in police custody was not told he had been in the high dependency unit of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary earlier that day.
Dr Alasdair Weston was giving evidence at the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Warren Fenty at Police Scotland’s Kittybrewster custody suite in June 2014.
The now-retired forensic medical examiner said he was given no physical notes regarding the 20-year-old’s medical treatment for an overdose at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Had he known Mr Fenty had been in the high dependency unit he would have assessed his risk level differently, he said.
‘He was lively and animated’
Referencing a statement he gave to police at the time, the 70-year-old recalled his visit to Mr Fenty in Cell 28 at the newly-opened custody suite on June 28, 2014.
“I recall that he was lively and animated,” he said. “He was sitting on the bed when I went into the cell.
“I found him quite chatty. He told me that he had taken someone else’s methadone. I recall that he told me he had taken 200mls of methadone.
“I recall saying to him something along the lines of ‘that’s a horse dose’ because it is a lot for someone who is not prescribed methadone and does not use addictive drugs regularly.
“Mr Fenty told me that he had overdosed and he had been taken to hospital.”
Ahead of that assessment, Dr Weston said he had no information passed to him, officers at the station could not find a discharge letter for him to refer to, and that he learned the facts of the overdose from Mr Fenty himself.
‘He is not a drug abuser’
The inquiry, which earlier this week heard claims that cell checks had been “lackadaisical” was shown a copy of Dr Weston’s notes from his four-minute examination of Mr Fenty.
He said: “I have noted that he is not a drug abuser. That he did not take diazepam or heroin regularly.
“He took someone else’s methadone. He went to hospital and then I have noted that his pupils were pinpoint, that his blood pressure was 120 over 70 and his heart sounds were 1 -2.
“He was fit to be interviewed.”
He said those readings were “pretty normal” for someone in their 20s and that the pinpoint pupils were noted as “confirmation that he had already taken opiates”.
Under questioning from Chris Paterson, the solicitor representing NHS Grampian at the inquiry, he said that his decision-making that night might have been different had he been told the extent of Mr Fenty’s condition.
From high dependency unit to cell
Mr Paterson asked what he’d have done if he’d known Mr Fenty had been treated in hospital with Naxolone or Narcan – drugs used to counteract the effects of an overdose.
Dr Weston replied: “I would have immediately been concerned.
“I would have called the hospital to get the exact details of when it was administered, what the treatment was, why it had to be given and why he was suddenly now in the police station.
“I didn’t know he had come straight from a high dependency unit to a police cell.”
The inquiry was shown a copy of a November 2020 report by Dr Katharine Morrison, which suggested Mr Fenty had taken a “lethal dose” of his girlfriend’s methadone and that he should have been “questioned more closely” about when he took it.
She said in her report: “The fact that he was vomiting and had pinpoint pupils indicated that he was opiate toxic so this does indicate that some degree of opiate was still on board.
“I do appreciate the lack of documentation and the fact that he had been in custody for quite a while without any anxiety on the part of the duty officer probably lulled Dr Weston into a false sense of security.”
Her findings go on to suggest Dr Weston should have gathered, or instructed officers to find out, more information from the hospital.
Dr Weston told the inquiry he accepted both of those observations and confirmed to the inquiry that had he known the full facts he “would have put Warren into a different risk category than I eventually did by saying he was fit to be detained”.
The inquiry, before Sheriff Morag McLaughlin, continues.
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