Amy Winehouse ‘ignored GP’s alcohol warnings’

Amy Winehouse ignored her doctor’s warnings about her alcohol consumption – and was more than five times the legal drink-drive limit when she died, her inquest heard today.

The Back To Black star was found dead in bed in her Camden flat in north London on the afternoon of Saturday 23 July this year.

She had 416mg of alcohol per decilitre of blood in her system – the legal driving limit is 80mg.

The singer did not drink for the first three weeks of July but then hit the bottle days before her death.

Dr Christina Romete, her GP, said this fitted a pattern in which Winehouse would abstain from alcohol for weeks on end only to drink again for weeks at a time.

She said she warned the 27-year-old of the many dangers if she kept drinking.

She said: “The advice I had given to Amy over a long period of time was verbal and in written form about all the effects alcohol can have on the system, including respiratory depression and death, heart problems, fertility problems and liver problems.”

Winehouse, who was taking medication to cope with alcohol withdrawal and anxiety, was reviewed last year by a psychologist and psychiatrist about her drinking but “had her own views” about treatment.

“She had her own way and was very determined to do everything her own way,” said Dr Romete.

“Including any form of therapy. She had very strict views.”

The GP, who treated the icon for several years, said her patient fully understood the risks of continuing to drink.

Dr Romete saw the Winehouse the night before she died.

She was tipsy but coherent and said she did not know if she was going to stop drinking but “she did not want to die”.

“She was looking forward to the future,” said the doctor as Winehouse’s tearful parents Mitch and Janis listened in the public gallery.

They said later it was “some relief” to finally find out what had happened to their daughter.

Winehouse was clear of illegal drugs when she died. However police found three bottles of vodka in her bedroom, two large, one small.

The inquest heard that at 200mg of alcohol per decilitre of blood, someone would lose control of their reflexes and 350mg was considered a fatal level.

A post-mortem examination showed Winehouse’s internal organs to be healthy but the pathologist who examined the body attributed cause of death to alcohol toxicity.

Such large alcohol levels could have stopped her breathing and sent her into a coma.

The night before she died, Winehouse was heard laughing in her bedroom and watching television and listening to music.

Andrew Morris, her live-in security guard, said he last spoke to her at 2am on the Saturday.

He checked in on her at 10am that day but did not talk to her and left her in bed thinking she was asleep.

Five hours later he called the emergency services.

It was usual for her to lie in, he said. However at 3pm he checked again.

Reliving the moment he discovered her body, he said: “When I went in the room she was lying on the bed in the same position from 10am.

“I was immediately concerned, went over and checked to see if she was OK.

“I checked on her and realised she wasn’t breathing and had no pulse so called the emergency services.”

Winehouse, who won five Grammy awards in 2008, was pronounced dead soon after by paramedics.

The bodyguard, who described Winehouse as “her usual lively self” the week before her death, said she had “big plans” that weekend.

St Pancras coroner Suzanne Greenway recorded a verdict of misadventure.

She said: “She had been specifically advised of the harm to her health and her life.

“However, she had her own views about therapy, particularly of the treatment she would accept and whether she would continue with it at any point in time.”

She said Winehouse “voluntarily” drank the alcohol and added: “She had consumed sufficient alcohol at 416mg per decilitre (of blood) and the unintended consequence of such potentially fatal levels was her sudden and unexpected death.”

The star’s family did not comment upon leaving the inquest but issued a statement, saying: “It is some relief to finally find out what happened to Amy.

“We understand there was alcohol in her system when she passed away – it is likely a build-up of alcohol in her system over a number of days.

“The court heard that Amy was battling hard to conquer her problems with alcohol and it is a source of great pain to us that she could not win in time.

“She had started drinking again that week after a period of abstinence.

“It underlines how important our work with the Amy Winehouse Foundation is to us, to help as many young people and children as we can in her name.

“It means a lot to us and, from the overwhelming messages of support we have had since Amy died, we know she meant a great deal to people all over the world.

“We want to thank everyone for that and for their continuing enthusiasm for the foundation.”

John Fahey, The Independent


About Marc Leprêtre

Marc Leprêtre is researcher in sociolinguistics, history and political science. Born in Etterbeek (Belgium), he lives in Barcelona (Spain) since 1982. He holds a PhD in History and a BA in Sociolinguistics. He is currently head of studies and prospective at the Centre for Contemporary Affairs (Government of Catalonia). Devoted Springsteen and Barça fan…
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