A NURSE took her own life at home using medication she had stolen from work at Taunton's Musgrove Park Hospital, an inquest has heard.

Karen Terrell took a drug used to anaesthetise patients ahead of surgery and a muscle relaxant that paralyses movement during operations.

The inquest heard that Mrs Terrell, 43, of Stapleton, Martock, who was depressed following the breakdown of her marriage, stole a box of vials of atracuriam and a quantity of propathol from Musgrove's post anaesthetic care unit.

She then took the propathol, which would have sent her to sleep, combined with a large amount of atracurian, which would have resulted in her being unable to breathe, leading to her death from hypoxia and cardiac arrest, the hearing was told.

Her body was found by her brother-in-law, who went to investigate after she failed to pick her children up from school on July 9 last year.

Post mortem tests were unable to discover how much of the medications she had taken as they continue to break down in the body after death.

But, questioned by Tony Williams, the senior coroner for Somerset, Julian Green, deputy clinical manager in the recovery unit, said: "She would have understood exactly what they (the medication) would have done."

Mr Williams, who concluded Mrs Terrell took her own life in an "impulsive" act, said he believed the dose was more than enough to cause her death.

Earlier, the inquest heard that her managers agreed a plan to support Mrs Terrell, who was described as a "conscientious, caring and compassionate" nurse, at work as she appeared depressed and struggling to cope.

Jon Beard, chief pharmacist at Musgrove, said it would be possible for a member of staff to "divert a small quantity of medicine" such as atracuriam and propathol "without raising suspicion".

But, he added, limited access to commonly used drugs would be "impractical".

"It isn't unusual for the cupboards (where drugs are kept) in the theatre rooms to be left open whilst staff are moving back and forth," said Mr Beard.

"We feel the security of drugs in theatre units is satisfactory.

"If you're working in that environment, you need access to the drugs and a degree of trust is needed."

*If you have been affected by this story, contact the local Samaritans at 16 Wood Street, Taunton, phone 01823-288998 or bereaved@mindtws.org.uk, phone 03003305463.