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Girl, 18, died in tragic accident after taking strong painkillers, inquest hears

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The death of a teenager found unresponsive by friends after taking strong painkillers was a “tragic accident”, a coroner has ruled.

Emily Set, 18, is remembered as a “beautiful, intelligent, thoughtful” young woman - who dreamed of travelling and was looking forward to moving in with pals and learning to drive.

Emily Set
Emily Set

But she sadly died in the early hours of November 28, 2020, after taking a fatal combination of drugs.

Emily, a former Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School pupil who lived in Church Wood Close, Canterbury, had been at a house in Reed Avenue on the night of November 27 where a friend was house-sitting.

She and two friends had stayed up late smoking and taking drugs which are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, an inquest at Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone heard on Tuesday.

Emily had also taken morphine and grew increasingly drowsy before going to lie down upstairs, said a police statement read by the coroner.

At around midnight, Emily’s friends left to pick up food, leaving her at the house.

On returning, they checked on her and took her water, before going downstairs to eat pizza. But when they looked in again later, they found her unresponsive.

They rang 999 just before 3am and gave CPR at the call handler’s instruction, before an ambulance arrived minutes later.

Emily’s mum, Rebecca Set, received a frantic call from her daughter’s friend at about 3am, and rushed to the scene.

She recalled being asked by paramedics to wait while they worked on Emily.

“After a while, one of the paramedics informed me they were unable to restart her heart,” she said in a statement.

“After some time I was allowed inside and I was able to spend some time with my daughter.”

Rebecca and Emily in Margate, visiting the Turner Gallery. Picture: Rebecca Set
Rebecca and Emily in Margate, visiting the Turner Gallery. Picture: Rebecca Set

A toxicology report found Emily had a high level of morphine - a strong opiate painkiller - in her system when she died, although it was below the level considered fatal.

But a pathologist explained the drugs are known to react with each other, and can cause respiratory failure.

He found Emily died as a result of respiratory failure, caused by a combination of the drugs.

The inquest also heard Emily had a history of mental health issues and self-harming.

She had been under the care of mental health services at Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT)’s Laurel House in Canterbury, but was discharged by a community psychiatric nurse Canterbury on November 19 - nine days before her death - and referred to her GP.

Emily with her beloved dog, Lily. Picture: Rebecca Set
Emily with her beloved dog, Lily. Picture: Rebecca Set

After Emily’s death, an investigation launched by KMPT found she “should not have been discharged” and the decision to discharge her “should have been discussed with the consultant or mental health team manager”.

But giving evidence, the former nurse responsible said she had discussed discharging Emily with her managers, who had no concerns.

She had assessed Emily’s risk as “low”, and said she had “no suicidal ideation or plan to end her life”.

This was echoed by Emily’s GP, who spoke to her for the last time on November 24, and said: “She seemed to be improving and was talking about her plans for the future.”

Emily’s father, Michael Set, also told the inquest: “I spoke to her before her death and she had hopes and dreams - she had plans for the future.

“There was no intention. It was just a terrible accident.”

Coroner Joanne Andrews ruled out suicide as a cause of death, and found Emily’s death to be an accident.

She said: “I can’t find any evidence that, had she not been discharged [from mental health services], her death would have been prevented. This was sadly a tragic accident.”

Emily’s mother described her daughter as “an intelligent, spiritual, thoughtful young lady who loved art, photography and the natural world”.

After the inquest, her father said: “Emily was much loved and will be missed always.”

Her mother added: “We are all just so sad that we have to live the rest of our lives without her.”

Since Emily’s death, a bench and tree have been erected in the garden of the Church of St Mary de Castro in Canterbury in her memory.

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