Junior doctor drowned herself over stresses of work — (London Evening Standard)

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London Evening Standard

Miranda Bryant

November 28 2011

A promising young doctor drowned herself in the Thames after the pressure of work became too much for her, an inquest heard.

Sumayya Dukes, 24, had been working long night shifts as a junior doctor at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington when she first went to A&E with stress and exhaustion.

She wrongly feared her work wasn’t up to scratch and had been upset by a ward sister shouting at her when she asked for help, West London coroner’s court heard. Dr Dukes, from Ealing, who senior doctors described as “high-achieving”, was signed off work with depression for 21 days.

But on the day she was due to return to work, in January last year, passers-by found her body on the shore of the Thames at Mortlake. She was identified by the hospital ID she was wearing around her neck.

A post-mortem examination confirmed she had overdosed on anti-depressants and drowned. Her mother Moamina Dukes said that in the preceding months her daughter had gone from being confident and happy to being paralysed by anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

“She was under big stress at work because she was working night shifts,” she told the inquest. “She was saying ‘I don’t know enough, I might kill a patient.'”

The inquest heard Dr Dukes was prescribed antidepressants by her GP and referred to a psychiatrist after a suicide attempt and episodes in which she said she was hearing voices. But when she visited community mental health services at the Lammas Centre in Ealing, she was discharged as she appeared well and expressed a desire to return to work.

The inquest heard her behaviour seemed normal when she left for work on the day she died, and she told her mother not to worry if she couldn’t contact her as her phone would be locked away while she saw patients.

Assistant deputy coroner Lorna Tagliavini recorded a verdict of suicide.