Vet staff took their own lives with 'easily accessible' animal euthanasia drugs

Two young South Australian women who worked at vet clinics were able to take their own lives with easily accessible drugs used to put down animals, the coroner’s court has heard.

In separate tragedies, 30-year-old vet Amy Patterson was found dead in her Colonel Light Gardens practice while veterinary student Erin Murray, 25, was doing work experience at Brighton and died at home.

The barbiturate used by vets to euthanase animals kills in just 30 seconds. The womens’ deaths  have prompted calls for much tighter controls.

Amy Patterson, 30,  died after taking a drug used to put down animals. Source: 7 News
Erin Murray, 25, also used the drug to end her life. Source: 7 News

“Both young women had ready accessibility to this drug where the drug is stored in an unlocked cupboard,” counsel assisting the coroner, Kathryn Waite, said.

The court heard the barbiturate doesn’t have to be kept under lock and key but “these requirements are inadequate and should be changed,” Ms Waite added.

The head of the Veterinary Surgeons’ Board wants stricter controls, but says his hands are tied.

The head of the Veterinary Surgeons’ Board now wants stricter controls over the drug. Source: 7News

“We don’t have enough power over a clinic to be able to deal with the matters the way they should be,” John Strachan said.

The court heard that just a week before she died, Erin Murray was told she’d failed half of her veterinary subjects and she had taken that setback very badly.

The deputy coroner says he’s likely to recommend the drug be re-classified so it must be locked away.

For support and information about suicide prevention,  or if you are struggling with mental health, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.