ENGLAND - A talented student doctor at the University of Oxford died from a heroin overdose after he turned to the drug to cope with the stress of his studies, a coroner heard.
Paul Robertson was conducting pioneering research into Parkinson's Disease and was just months from being awarded with his doctorate when he was found dead at home. The 26-year-old was on a scholarship at Christchurch College to advance scientists' understanding of the devastating illness, but suffered from severe anxiety and insomnia due to pressure he placed on himself to succeed, an inquest heard. His girlfriend, Sophie Bocksberger, discovered Robertson slumped in a chair in the bedroom of his student flat in Oxford at 7.30pm on May 18 after becoming concerned that she had not heard from him since 3pm the previous day.
A statement read on her behalf said rigor mortis had set in and there was a used syringe in the academic's right arm with a spoon and other drug paraphernalia nearby. She said, "He placed a lot of pressure on himself and he was something of a perfectionist and a hard worker and was very careful about his work. He had high expectations of himself." Miss Bocksberger said she was aware her boyfriend had started using heroin in August last year, but he was not an addict who took the drug every day.
A report from his GP, Dr Hugo Hammersley, said the Oxford researcher had suffered from sleeplessness and anxiety due to "stress with his research" and he was prescribed with sleeping tablets and anti-depressants.
His father Robert Robertson told the coroner in Oxford, "It was clear sleep was an issue for a long time. He found it hard to switch off. "He had reached a critical stage in his research and had submitted the first part of his thesis. He was almost close to coasting downhill. It is just strange."
The researcher, originally from Maidenhead, Berks., had sought counselling for his drug abuse, but was told he was not an addict and so was denied help, the inquest heard. A post mortem examination toxicology test revealed a "very high" morphine level of 1,006mg per litre of blood - almost three times the recognised fatal level.
Alison Thompson, assistant coroner for Oxfordshire, recorded a verdict of a drug related death. She said: "He was a likeable, intelligent young man. The only problem he had was this anxiety which sometimes goes hand-in-hand with somebody who is intelligent, working hard and has set their sights on something, as they do. "He had taken this (drug) to have a calming effect. There is absolutely no suggestion he intended to harm himself. This was clearly an unintended outcome."
Mr Robertson's parents, Robert and Jacqueline, declined to comment after the hearing in Oxford.
The Telegraph/ September 2, 2014
Art: Google stock art/heroin od
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