The mother of a junior doctor who took her own life described her daughter’s working hours as “immoral” following an inquest.
Jessica Murphy, 26, was found unconscious in her apartment at Exchange Hall in Tallaght, Dublin 24, on Dec 1 last year. She was later pronounced dead at Tallaght Hospital, where she was a junior doctor working in neurology. Dublin Coroner’s Court heard Dr Murphy had taken an “overwhelming” overdose of the anti-depressant amitriptyline.
Her parents raised the issue of her working hours during the inquest, telling coroner Brian Farrell she worked 95 hours a week. Speaking following the inquest, Marian Murphy said her daughter had been “put under too much pressure”.
“I used to say to her ‘it was wrong, it was immoral that you are working all those hours’ because I could see the pressure was building up in her,” she said.
The inquest heard that Dr Murphy, from Ovens in Co Cork, had suffered depression from the age of 17. Her father, Matt, said the family was aware of it but she did not want people to know about it. She also suffered from “severe insomnia”.
She began working at Tallaght Hospital in July 2012. Mr Murphy said his daughter enjoyed working at the hospital but that the long hours caused problems due to her insomnia. “I believe she was self-prescribing sleeping tablets and possibly anti-depressants in the days before her death,” he said.
Her parents went to Dublin to check on her after they could not contact her and found her unconscious. She went into cardiac arrest after paramedics arrived and was taken to Tallaght Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.
Gardaí at the scene found empty medication boxes, as well as a letter of resignation to the hospital.
The Murphys told the court that their daughter’s working hours contributed to her lack of sleep.
Speaking in the court, Ms Murphy said Jessica had told them she did not think she could go on, so she wrote the resignation letter, but it was not submitted to the hospital.
Dr Farrell acknowledged the issues raised but said that, as the HSE was not represented in court, he was not in a position to address them.
The pathologist gave the cause of death as respiratory depression due to an overdose of amitriptyline.
He said that although there was no note or letter, the level of the drug was “excessively high” and that as a doctor she would have known this. He returned a verdict that Dr Murphy took her own life.
Speaking after the inquest, Ms Murphy welcomed recent moves to reduce working hours for junior doctors. She also said the family was glad to see public figures speaking out about depression because her daughter had been afraid of the stigma attached to it.
“It is an illness like anything else and should be treated properly,” she said. “It should not have any shame attached to it. We don’t have any shame about it but it is a pity Jess did.”
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