The Inquest of Sophia Mirza
Brighton Coroner’s Court, 13th June
Those present were the Coroner and her two court
officers and Criona Wilson, Sophia’s mother. The solicitor who had represented Sophia when she
had been sectioned against her will turned up much to the
delight of Criona – this lady had been deeply affected by the
treatment meted out to Sophia apparently.
The only others present were the two
pathologists, Dr. O’Donovan from Oldchurch hospital and the
local Pathologist Dr. Rainey.
The lady Coroner was very firm and laid down the
rules of the Court at the very beginning. The only evidence that
would be considered was that which directly led to the death of
Sophia. The primary purpose of the court is to establish why
Evidence was heard first from Dr. O’Donovan, the
neuro-pathologist who had examined the spinal chord along with
Dr. Chaudhuri. He reported that the spinal chord looked normal
but that he had found that 4 out of 5 dorsal root ganglia were
abnormal and showed disease. He had not been able to find
exactly what had caused this but the result was dorsal root
ganglionitis – an inflammation.
Many potential causes of death were discussed,
such as sleep apnoea, and then discounted. Notes from Kings
College and Oldchurch were referred to which alluded to possible
drug use. If this had occurred in the 2 years before diagnosis
this would have rendered the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome inaccurate and it would have been substituted with
Chronic Fatigue State. It was, however, established that
if Sophia had ever taken such drugs it was 7 or 8 years before
she became ill and was therefore irrelevant.
Then Criona gave evidence and answered fully the
Coroner’s thorough but sensitive questioning. It was very
There was then a break and when the court resumed
Dr. O’Donovan took the stand again. He said that Sophia probably
died of dehydration, technically acute aneuric renal failure.
He also stated that dorsal root ganglionitis is a
pathological condition. He said that psychiatrists were baffled
by her illness but that “It lies more
in the realms of neurology than psychiatry, in my opinion.”
He also commented that it is surprising that
there is no pathological research in the literature.
He was asked by Criona whether his findings
support the term Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and he said "My
work supports the inflammation theory because there was
inflammation in the basal root ganglia." He would not
support the use of the term M.E. over CFS, however, because that
is the modern term and he hasn’t seen evidence of muscle
inflammation (they didn’t look for it).
Dr. Rainey then gave evidence and said that
Sophia’s heart had been sent to the Brompton hospital but no
abnormalities had been found. Sophia had a high BMI when she
died and a “fatty” liver. He didn’t take muscle histology to
check for inflammation.
He commented that M.E. was the old-fashioned term
and the new terminology has come in (CFS) so he was determined
to use that.
The Coroner then retired to consider the verdict
which she came back and delivered in narrative fashion.
She said that Sophia had been an attractive and
vigorous young woman until she was struck down by illness.
She suffered substantially and became extremely
unwell and was effectively housebound and bed-ridden. Her Mother
was her devoted carer.
The medical cause of death was
aneuric renal failure due to dehydration
Previous history of meningitis, dorsal root
ganglionitis and hepatic steatosis.
Sophia died as a result of acute
renal failure arising as a result of Chronic Fatigue