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Observer Hastings and St Leonards
Published Date: 17 April 2009
THE family of a talented runner who killed himself while on anti-depressants want to raise awareness of the potentially lethal side effects of some drugs.
An inquest this week into the death of Luke Veness revealed the popular 34-year-old, who lived in Hartfield Road, Eastbourne, had been prescribed Prozac to combat depression.
Mr Veness, who represented England in his early running career, had developed anxiety problems after his former girlfriend, and mother of his young daughter, started seeing someone new.
Speaking at Wednesday’s hearing, his sister, Natasha Sandaver, said her brother was worried his relationship with his daughter may be affected by his ex’s new romance.
“They had always maintained a close relationship and he was worried this would stop. He started having anxiety problems and began taking sleeping tablets,” she said.
However, Mrs Sandaver was adamant that far from being suicidal Mr Veness was starting to look forward.
He was still regularly seeing his daughter, had booked a family holiday and was keen to get back to full-time work as a train driver, which he had previously been signed off from by his GP. That same GP, Dr Anthony Sadler, confirmed that Mr Veness had visited him in September last year complaining of ‘feeling panicky’ and depressed. He was prescribed 20mg a day of Prozac.
Dr Sadler told the inquest that despite being asked on more than one occasion, Mr Veness had said he was not feeling suicidal. In fact, during a second visit on September 24, the former Hastings Athletics Club member said he now felt calmer and was almost ready to go back to work.
Tragically, though, a matter of days later, Mr Veness’s body was found hanging in Rectory Wood in Hastings.
His loving family believe it could have been the medication, which lists possible side-effects as suicidal tendencies and violent thoughts, which finally drove him to ending his own life.
Coroner Alan Craze recorded a verdict of suicide but was keen to point out that he did not believe Mr Veness had been planning his death for any significant length of time. He also said, “It is quite clear that this is a case where the balance of his mind was disturbed.”
Mr Veness’s family believe that could have been a direct result of the drugs he was taking, although the coroner said it was something “we will never know”. His father, Glenn Veness, said afterwards, “We feel Luke’s actions were taken at a time when his mind was not thinking logically.
“We do not want to apportion any blame but we feel the anti-depressants he was on may have been a contributory factor to his actions.
“In the long term these drugs may be beneficial but we have since discovered the dangerous side-effects in the early stages of them being taken.
“We strongly feel these side effects should be made more evident, with a warning on the box rather than inside where they can be overlooked.”
The family plans to lobby health minister Alan Johnson into forcing pharmaceutical firms to make warnings more obvious.
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