A business man who had been battling alcohol addiction was told by his doctor to start drinking again, after complaining about “cold turkey” withdrawal symptoms, a coroner has heard.
51-year-old bankruptcy specialist Stephen Appleton’s GP admitted at the inquest he told Mr Appleton to resume his six pints a day drinking habit, warning him that quitting drinking too suddenly could be dangerous. Mr Appleton later hanged himself at his home in Windsor having suffered from various issues.
In a statement to the inquest, Sandra Smith, Stephen’s partner, said: “Stephen and I went to see Dr Vikash Patel. Stephen said he had been abstaining from alcohol for days. He was feeling optimistic. I was hopeful we could finally get some help.
“However, when we saw Dr Patel, he told Stephen that stopping drinking alcohol immediately was dangerous and could cause a seizure. He told Stephen to start drinking again. I was shocked and could not believe it. Dr Patel said to taper off slowly in a controlled way. How could I control the drinking of a man who drank in secret?”
Assistant Berkshire Coroner Alison McCormick asked Dr Patel, who practiced from the Lee House Surgery in Windsor, to explain why he had encouraged the alcoholic man to drink again.
Dr Patel said: “Stephen had reduced his alcohol intake, had been abstaining for two or three days. My understanding at the time is that he was consuming somewhere in the region of six pints a day before.
“We had a discussion about the risks of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, my main concerns were with respect to withdrawal seizures, which can potentially be fatal. I was told that his alcohol consumption should be reverted back to original levels and reduced by 10 per cent per week. I felt that to be reasonable or he would have run the risk of potentially fatal consequences.”
The inquest heard how in phone conversations the day before Stephen committed suicide, Dr Patel had been told by Sandra about how he’d been testing the strength of a belt.
Dr Patel said of the telephone conversation: “Initially I was concerned but once Stephen told me that it hadn’t taken place, I was still concerned but knew that he had been referred and safety net advice had already been given. Stephen hadn’t expressed any thoughts of self-harm or suicide before.”
The doctor said he had given Ms Smith a list of numbers to call, including a crisis team for mental health and Talking Therapies.
Police investigators the next day found that Mr Appleton had searched ‘How to Hang Yourself with a Belt’ on Google and Yahoo search engines before he took his own life.
The inquest continues.
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