Inquests continue on the death of a 21-year-old man who died after taking illegal slimming pills in March 2018. Vaidotas Gerbutavicius downed 20 pills and told his father he would be dead in an hour as he told a police officer he felt like his body was burning. He died of cardiac arrest at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone,Waltham Forest.
Gerbutavicius had taken dinitrophenol (DNP) which is considered an illegal drug as it is used in various industrial products such as fertilisers, dyes, photographic chemicals as well as explosives. A person who ingests the drug experiences symptoms such as tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmia, increased body temperature and death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared DNP extremely dangerous and not fit for human consumption.
Between December 2015 and May 2018 Barry Clint Wright from Monroe, North Carolina sold DNP to customers throughout the US and other foreign countries as a weight loss drug supplement. He purchased the drug in bulk and repackaged them in ingestible pills but did not label them as DNP. He also failed to include instructions and warnings on the use of the pills on his packages. Gerbutavicius is one of three fatalities who bought the drug from Wright.
At the time of the young man's death, the dangers of DNP had not yet been circulated around the London Ambulance Service.
During the hearing at the Walthamstow Coroner's Court, paramedic Daniel Crane said he had only read an article on the dangers of DNP and requested a "blue light" call to Whipps Cross Hospital. Upon his arrival, paramedic Crane said he informed hospital staff that a "potentially lethal toxic dose" of the drug had been ingested by the patient. He was told by attending staff "so is paracetamol if too much is taken.", BBC reports.
Gerbutavicius' father told the inquest that he had concerns the hospital staff "did not act in a timely manner" causing his son's condition to deteriorate.
"I received a call from Vaidotas, I could tell from his voice he was drunk and hysterical and he said 'dad I took something and I will be dead in an hour'," his father said.
"My wife and I arrived at the hospital and we were told everything was under control. Doctors told us it wasn't life-threatening."
Little did they know that within an hour their son would be put in an induced coma. He was given CPR but eventually died from cardiac arrest.
Leigh Donovan, a senior nurse at the hospital denied this account. However, she admitted that she was indeed "unfamiliar" with the health risks of DNP.
Shaz Noyd who was also another nurse that attended to Gerbutavicius, said he was not sure what DNP was then.
"The patient explained it to me along with senior staff," Mr Nyod said.
"I went through Google and I performed multiple observations per hour and informed the doctor of hyperthermia and agitation. I could see the patient sweating constantly and he said he was feeling very hot."
He explained that he is unable to recall if there were measures taken to treat the patient's hyperthermia.
Nurse Donovan disputed this in evidence saying that the staff made all attempts to cool down the patient and that they "had used up all the ice packs" even before Gerbutavicius succumbed to cardiac arrest at around 1:30pm.
Whipps Cross Hospital clinical director said in a statement that care and interventions were taken in a timely manner.
In November 2019, Barry Clint Wright,38 pleaded guilty to his charges and was handed the maximum statutory sentence of seven years in federal prison in February. Gerbutavicius' father flew to Florida to see Wright sentenced to jail. The inquest continues at Walthamstow Coroner's Court.