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Court News U.K.
May 03, 2013
A journalist suffering from a degenerative disease died after taking ecstasy, an inquest heard.
Peter Webb, 51, collapsed outside a friend’s home in west London on February 3.
By the time paramedics arrived he had suffered two heart attacks and was rushed to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Medics tried to save him but he died three days later from organ failure.
A post-mortem revealed Mr Webb had 0.7 milligrams of ecstasy in his bloodstream and had taken the class A drug between 24 and 48 hours prior to his collapse.
Dr Jon Van der Walt, who performed the autopsy, said: ‘MDMA is not a dangerous drug – it is quite rare for these things to happen.
‘If you were a chronic abuser the death of heart-muscle cells would leave scars on the heart but in this case there was no scarring.’
Mr Webb found out in 2007 he was highly likely to develop Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative genetic disorder which can lead to dementia and involuntary body movements.
His father died of the disease in the same year and his mother died of dementia two years later.
Mr Webb began to develop mood swings and erratic behaviour linked with the onset of Huntington’s, Dr Van der Walt added.
He also became depressed and was prescribed antidepressants, the court heard.
When friend Dan Wong went to meet him she saw him brushing his teeth in broad daylight outside a shop.
He was at Ms Wong’s flat on 3 February when he appeared to be nervous, spoke incoherently and began to fidget.
Ms Wong thought Webb was drunk but when he told her he needed to vomit she insisted she would take him to hospital.
He then collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest.
Dr Van der Walt added: ‘The symptoms at his friend’s house were from a cardiac arrest, not from Ecstasy.
‘He took MDMA a day or two before – but drugs such as MDMA or cocaine give you anxiety, it would have made him much more anxious.’
Assistant Deputy Coroner, Darren Stewart, recorded a narrative verdict and said that he died from an MDMA overdose which caused respiratory arrest and organ failure.
Huntington’s disease was also said to be a contributing factor.
Mr Stewart: ‘Mr Webb lost his father which clearly had an impact on him.
‘It was compounded a year later by the loss of his mother to whom he had a very close relationship.
‘Because her death was from dementia, a symptom of Huntington’s, and he had already lost his father to the disease, it must have played a significant role in impacting his mental health.’
Mr Stewart said there was no evidence that Mr Webb intended to kill himself and also ruled out a verdict of death by misadventure.
‘I find that the concentration of 0.7 in Mr Webb’s blood system is at the extremely low end of a fatal incident.
‘This supports the conclusion that this was a one-time use by Mr Webb who had never taken the substance before and was not used to its results.’
Mr Webb, of Hove, was a single man with no children.