A homeless man was left to die face down on his friend's kitchen floor after smoking synthetic drugs. A coronial report reveals the sad end to Erin Kidwell's "turbulent life".
The odds were stacked against Erin Patrick Kidwell. The 40-year-old ticked every box for someone most at risk of dying from synthetic drug use.
Kidwell, who liked to be referred to as Charlie, had a history of drug and alcohol use and mental health issues, was frequently homeless, and had steadily deteriorating physical health.
All this and more meant he was more at risk than the average person of dying a synthetic drug-related death - something which eventuated in the early hours of November 8, 2020.
Kidwell had a "turbulent life", Coroner Tania Tetitaha said in her report into his death, released today.
He had spent time in prison and was facing charges including breaching bail, breaching prison release conditions, and receiving stolen property.
He also told his GP he had never been employed, and frequently went homeless.
Kidwell had poor health, developing heart disease, heart failure and renal failure in 2017, but his hospitalisations were brief because he refused to stay for ongoing care.
He was also understood to have been diagnosed with liver failure, asthma and type 2 diabetes, and had mild dementia with an unknown cause.
Kidwell spent his years going in and out of homes, and being evicted from at least two properties.
His homelessness made it difficult for him to store his prescribed medications, meaning he struggled to comply with medication requirements and his health continued to suffer.
"Overall Mr Kidwell's life appears dysfunctional. He was facing criminal charges, had been released from prison, had serious health concerns exacerbated by housing insecurities. His relationships also do not appear to have been healthy with a previous partner being granted a final protection order in 2009," Coroner Tetitaha said.
Three months before his death, Kidwell was taken in by a friend in Manurewa.
On the night of November 7 last year, Kidwell was socialising and drinking at the flat with a group of friends.
About 3am, Kidwell was talking to his friend's partner in the kitchen when the friend - from another room - heard him cough and fall to the floor. He had previously been heard coughing, wheezing, and struggling to breathe - something that had been going on for a few days prior.
But instead of helping Kidwell, his friends left him there on the floor, believing he would eventually wake up.
"This was an expected pattern of behaviour exhibited by Mr Kidwell – he would smoke synthetic cannabis then collapse on the floor before regaining consciousness. It appears it was expected he would get up afterwards," the coroner said.
The friend's partner got up again about 7am and found Kidwell still on the floor, lying face down in his own vomit - but she and Kidwell's friend believed he was sleeping and left him there again.
About half an hour later the pair became concerned, and roused another occupant at the flat - Kidwell's ex partner - who cleaned Kidwell's vomit and tried to wake him. She searched for a pulse, but could not find anything. She then called emergency services.
Resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful and Kidwell was pronounced dead at the scene.
Coroner Tetitaha said she was "dumbstruck" by the lack of action when Kidwell's friends first found him on the floor.
"Synthetic cannabis users such as Mr Kidwell should not be left unaided if found unconscious and/or vomiting on the floor. Hospitalisation could have prevented this death."
A post-mortem examination found synthetic drug toxicity was the direct cause of death, exacerbated by his other health issues.
Coroner Tetitaha said Kidwell fell into all of the categories of someone at high risk of synthetic drug-related death.
An analysis of 84 coronial cases, both open and closed, shows distinctive trends, including that the most at-risk groups are men, Māori, people aged 40 or older, people being treated for mental health illness and medical conditions, usually including a heart-related illness, and people experiencing homelessness.
She noted the ways Kidwell's homelessness contributed to his death, and called for a "holistic approach" for people in similar circumstances.