Townsville Hospital Emergency Department Director Dr Luke Lawton said he had seen a number of “absolute tragedies from MDMA and related drug users”. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Townsville Hospital Emergency Department Director Dr Luke Lawton said he had seen a number of “absolute tragedies from MDMA and related drug users”. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Top doctor laments ‘avoidable’ MDMA tragedies

A SENIOR Townsville doctor has described the tragic moment a family was forced to turn off their son's life support after an MDMA overdose.

Townsville Hospital emergency department director Dr Luke Lawton said the man had taken the party drug and suffered a cardiac arrest.

Doctors managed to revive the man but as his heart had not been beating for so long he had suffered serious irreversible brain damage.

"His family (was) put in the horrible position a few days later of having to switch off his life support," Dr Lawton recalled.

"Watching the sort of human tragedy that unfolded was always terrible to see and maybe even more terrible because, while we managed to sort out the cardiac arrest the consequences of that were too far advanced to reverse."

Dr Lawton said the tragic death, which did not occur in Townsville, happened "a long time ago".

Throughout his career, he said he had seen a number of "absolute tragedies from MDMA and related drug users".

"I've seen young people who have died," he said. "I have seen young people who suffered really severe and life changing consequences, things like strokes and brain damage. I've seen young people who have been … with people who've taken drugs been injured.

"It's horrible because, for us as doctors and nurses, we're looking at someone who's young and in the prime of their life and this is not someone we should be doing CPR on, or desperately trying to save.

"And what's really terrible about that is it's avoidable."

A spate of deaths in the summer festival period has inflamed debate around pill testing.

Dr Lawton said he didn't have the answers to prevent deaths as in the emergency department they saw the consequences, not the causes.

But he said it was essential to acknowledge the problem and be aware of the dangers of taking drugs.

"I think it's still a topic that we struggle to discuss as a society," he said.


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