Skip to main content

On This Day
Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Prozac blamed for woman's death
Wendy Hay
Wendy Hay was on Prozac when she died
A psychiatrist has told an inquest the antidepressant Prozac probably contributed to a woman's suicide.

Dr David Healey, director of the North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine in Bangor, was giving evidence at the inquest into the death of Wendy Hay, 52.

Mrs Hay was found hanged at her home in Arthington, near Leeds, in September last year.

Her husband, leading toxicology professor Alastair Hay, believes Prozac contributed to his wife's death.

I just wanted something that would help her and I thought that Prozac would do that
Alistair Hay
Dr Healy told the inquest he had looked at clinical studies on Prozac and the records from Mrs Hay's case.

He said: "On the balance of probabilities the drug contributed to her suicide and she possibly wouldn't have committed suicide if she wasn't on this drug.

"She wasn't taking her own life with the usual intent."

He said studies involving healthy people had shown some people could develop suicidal tendencies after taking Prozac.

"This drug can make healthy people who aren't remotely thinking of suicide suicidal."

'High-risk' patients

Mrs Hay's husband had previously wiped away tears as he told the Leeds inquest how he discovered his wife's body.

Professor Hay, an expert in chemical and biological warfare and professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University told the inquest he believed she died because she was taking Prozac.

We are comfortable that there's no causal connection between Prozac and suicide
Susan Pezzack, Eli Lilly
He said his wife had suffered a recurrence of her severe depression two months before she died and was later put on a standard dose of 20 milligrammes of Prozac a day.

After she died, he became aware of reports linking the antidepressant with suicidal feelings in some patients.

Professor Hay said that although he accepts Prozac helps a large number of people, he believes the standard dose of 20 milligrammes a day can be catastrophic to certain high-risk patients.

He has called for those at risk to be identified and perhaps given a different dose.


Professor Hay said his wife first began suffering from depression in 1999. He looked after her after he was released from hospital, teaching himself Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to try and help her.

Alastair Hay
Professor Hay looked at research into Prozac after his wife died
He told the BBC: "Depression is a terrible, terrible condition.

"I just wanted something that would help her and I thought that Prozac would do that.

"And it was just devastating to find afterwards that it might have been what killed her."

He said: "There will be others going through the same and it is just horrendous and it is wrong."

But he added: "It's not that Prozac is a bad drug. I have friends that have benefited enormously from it.

"But there are some people that respond badly to it."

No link

Susan Pezzack, a legal director for the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, which makes Prozac, said: "We take reports of this type very seriously."

But she added: "We are comfortable that there's no causal connection between Prozac and suicide."

Last month, government experts launched an inquiry into Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) drugs, including Prozac, after concerns were raised, including a link to suicides.



The BBC's James Westhead
"Taken by 44 million people worldwide"

Professor Alistair Hay
'I just wanted something that would help her'

Anti-depressant safety reviewed
08 Jan 03  |  Health
Prozac 'may encourage suicide'
22 May 00  |  Health
21 Jan 99  |  Medical notes

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail services | Desktop ticker | News on mobiles/PDAs

Back to top ^^

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
BBCi Homepage >> | BBC Sport >> | BBC Weather >> | BBC World Service >>
Help | Feedback | News sources | Privacy
bannerwatch listenbbc sportAmericasAfricaEuropeMiddle EastSouth AsiaAsia Pacific