A globetrotting pensioner died after a chemist gave her the wrong medication – for a woman with a similar name.
Margaret Forrest was fit enough to enjoy backpacking holidays in Afghanistan and Australia, and had been looking forward to travelling from her home in Kingussie to attend her grandson’s wedding on the south coast.
But the fiercely independent 86-year-old widow was mistakenly given diabetes medication for a Florence Frost at her local Boots, with tragic consequences.
She was found unconscious in her flat on the town’s High Street, above the family-run gift shop, by her son Billy on November 12, 2013.
She never emerged from a coma and died two days later.
Yesterday, a fatal accident inquiry into the tragedy got underway at Inverness Sheriff Court.
The court heard Mrs Forrest had wrongly been given Mrs Frost’s dispensing box containing Gliclazide, which is used to treat diabetics.
It induced a hypoglycaemic brain injury and other complications which led to Mrs Forrest’s death.
Sheriff Margaret Neilson also heard that when Mrs Forrest was admitted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, medical staff thought she was Florence Frost because paramedics had handed over the box of medication.
It was only when her son’s partner – a mental health nurse who worked at the hospital – inquired about her, that Mrs Forrest’s true identity was discovered.
Fiscal depute Alasdair Macdonald told the sheriff the Crown did not intend to prosecute either pharmacy manager
Nicola Ferguson or her staff.
Miss Ferguson did not give evidence at the inquiry, but her police statement was read out in court.
She told Detective Sergeant Alan Ross: “I was told that Mrs Frost’s medication was in Mrs Forrest’s possession at Raigmore Hospital.
“She would have had to collect it from the pharmacy. I have no knowledge how this happened.
“I can confirm that Mrs Forrest’s medication was kept next to Mrs Frost’s. We keep it on shelves in alphabetical order.”
However, police photographs produced in court yesterday showed not all the medication on that particular shelf was in alphabetical order.
Billy Forrest, 65, told the court that his mother kept “pretty good health and was still sharp.”
He added: “She liked travelling and despite her age had been back-packing to the Afghanistan border and in Australia for three months a couple of years before she died.
“She was very independent and would go off on her own so I wouldn’t see her every day. I never had to care for her. She took regular medication for high blood pressure and the like but there was nothing that concerned me.
“But my mother was old school. She would never question what the doctor would give her and had faith in the system.”
He told the court he had become concerned about his mother after not seeing her at the weekend.
He added: “I found her lying on the floor unconscious. I thought she was dead.
“I phoned an ambulance and then my brother and (his partner) Ellie. The paramedics came and wanted her medication.
“I found a box in her bedroom with some compartments open. It wasn’t until later I discovered that it had Mrs Frost’s name on it.
“She never came out of her coma and died 48 hours later. We just hope this inquiry will make sure that this does not happen again.”
Nikki Winter, a dispenser at the Kingussie branch, agreed that boxes containing diabetic medication which could be deadly to those who don’t require it would benefit from being coloured differently. The inquiry continues.