Grandmother dies in freak accident after hot bath caused medical skin patch to give her an overdose

A grandmother died when a hot bath caused a patch she was wearing on her arm to give her an overdose of medication.

Barbara Reynolds, 67, was killed minutes after getting into the bath at her Leicestershire home as the heat sped up the release of the painkilling drug.

She had been using Fentanyl patches for chronic pain since 2002 – but the “surge” of the drug into her body made her heart stop.

Painkillers: The Fentanyl patches Barbara Reynolds was wearing released the drug too quickly when she got in the bath and made her heart stop

Painkillers: The Fentanyl patches Barbara Reynolds was wearing released the drug too quickly when she got in the bath and made her heart stop

Mrs Reynolds normally wore just one patch on her arm that released 100mcg of the medicine every hour, Loughborough Coroner”s Court heard.

But on the morning of her death, she put a new patch on without removing an old one.

Mrs Reynolds was also feeling groggy that day from the effects of taking anti-depressant Amitriptyline.

Her distraught husband Charles, 72, told the inquest on Tuesday that he returned to their home in Birstall, Leicestershire, to find his wife dead.


Fentanyl is a strong painkiller similar to morphine, and is released slowly into the bloodstream via a sticky patch, according to the NHS website.

Patients can take a quick-acting painkiller in addition if the patch is not having enough of an effect.

But NHS information warns users it is “very important” –

Not to stick on any extra patches.Not to let anyone else use your patch.Not to cut or divide a patch.Not to apply immediately after a bath or shower – allow the skin to cool first.Not to apply direct heat to the area with the patch, e.g. a hot water bottle.

Similar drugs include oxycodone and buprenorphine.

He said: “I ran her a bath as normal before making Barbara a drink and taking the dog for a walk.

“After an hour walking the dog I came back and the bath water was still running.

“She used to keep the water running to keep the bath hot.

“I went upstairs and she was dead in the bath.”

The inquest was told both the USA”s Federal Drug Administration and the UK”s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulations Authority (MHRA), advise against wearing the patches in the bath.

But manufacturer Janssen-Cilag admitted that the instructions on Fentanyl did not say this specifically in 2009, when Mrs Reynolds died.

When asked by Coroner Robert Chapman if his wife read the warning on the label, Mr Reynolds replied: “She probably read it in the first place but you don”t read it every time if you”re taking it for a long period and some of it is difficult for the layman to understand.”

Dr Tim Johnson, a consultant in pain management, said: “If you were in a hot bath and lay down into it, the effect of the patches would be to provide a surge of Fentanyl which would anaesthetise you.”

Recording a narrative verdict, Mr Chapman said: “The real issue is that Barbara Reynolds may not have understood what she was doing.

“If she didn”t read the patient information leaflet she might not have been aware of the danger.”