Fatal Consequences: Student’s Excessive Laughing Gas Inhalation Leads to Demise

A student consumed multiple “big bottles” of laughing gas daily before her hospitalization and eventual demise, a coroner revealed.

Heidi Connor, the senior coroner, disclosed to Berkshire coroner’s court that Ellen Mercer’s demise was partly due to nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.

Post-mortem results indicated Mercer’s death resulted from bilateral pulmonary thromboembolism, deep vein thrombosis, and “long-term complications of nitrous oxide use.”

Ellen Mercer, a 24-year-old business student from Gerrards Cross, Bucks, passed away in the emergency department of Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, on Feb 10, 2023, after presenting herself unable to walk.

Testimony from Michaela Kirtley, an emergency medical technician, was presented during the inquest.

Kirtley, employed by Phoenix Response Services, a contractor for South Central Ambulance Service, responded to Mercer’s residence on Feb 8, two days before her passing. Upon arrival, Mercer’s boyfriend guided Kirtley to the bedroom.

During the inquiry, Kirtley described the scene in Mercer’s bedroom: no sheets on the bed, just a “severely stained” duvet.

This indicated to her that Mercer was a “vulnerable person,” appearing visibly distressed and resembling someone six months pregnant.Mercer recounted to Kirtley how she had burned her legs after a gas canister accident, rendering her unable to walk or use the restroom for two weeks.

The presence of a box filled with large nitrous oxide canisters, unfamiliar to Kirtley, was pointed out by Mercer’s boyfriend.

These canisters, weighing 600g each, were reportedly consumed at a rate of “two to three bottles” per day by Mercer, though her intake had decreased recently.

The inquest revealed Mercer’s frequent need for urgent medical attention in the months leading to her demise.

It’s noteworthy that at the time of Mercer’s passing, possessing laughing gas for recreational use wasn’t illegal.