North Yorkshire woman with autism 'driven to her death' by incorrect diagnosis, inquest told

Zoe Zaremba suffered from a 'lack of understanding of autism' her mother said. Credit: MEN Media

A woman with autism was driven to take her own life by an incorrect diagnosis from mental health professionals, an inquest has heard.Zoe Zaremba, 25, was found dead near her home in Aiskew, near Bedale, North Yorkshire, on 21 June 2020.

She had been reported missing six days earlier when her mother realised that she was not in her bedroom, North Yorkshire Coroner's Court heard.

The inquest was told Miss Zaremba had been distressed about the service she had received from mental health teams.

She had been in the care of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust which said training had since improved.

The court heard Miss Zaremba was diagnosed with autism at 16 and became frustrated with mental health services after she was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

The BPD diagnosis was later deemed incorrect after another assessment. 

Miss Zaremba's mother, Jean, told the inquest in Northallerton that her daughter was "an amazing, intelligent person with a dry sense of humour".

'A waste of a wonderful life'

She said: "Zoe helped many people with her knowledge and kind words. When she started struggling and unable to help herself she was referred to mental health. 

"Unfortunately, due to their lack of understanding of autism and refusal to listen to her or myself, she developed complex PTSD due to the actions and inactions of the trust.

"She was put on the borderline personality disorder protocol without being assessed or having a diagnosis. 

"This and the refusal to remove the misdiagnosis ultimately drove Zoe to her death."She added: "I will never recover from losing Zoe, though life goes on and somehow I need to find a way. It was a waste of a wonderful life."The inquest was told that Miss Zaremba had struggled with bullying at school and was diagnosed with autism at 16.

Between 2016 and 2020 she was taken to hospital 37 times after self-harming.She was encouraged after an assessment found she did not have BPD, but the diagnosis was still included in her records despite attempts to change them. 

She believed it would have an effect on the rest of her life and, weeks before her eventual death, she was taken to hospital after an attempt on her life.

Ms Zaremba said: "She didn't feel she was going to hold down a full-time job. 

"She did have hopes and I know she would have liked to have had children and a relationship but I think she just got so worn down."Dr Wolfgang Kuster, a clinical director for Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust, who worked directly with Miss Zaremba, said she was offered various forms of community support and different therapies but rejected them all. 

Dr Kuster said that he believed Miss Zaremba's choice to reject the trust was because she had "lost trust" in them.Clinicians "often disagree" about what a patient's disorder may be, he said and Miss Zaremba may have been attributed as having borderline personality disorder because of an "emotional instability". 

After a report found that the Trust had failed to support people with autism, Dr Kuster said that since Miss Zaremba's death there had been specific training with clinicians to address this.The inquest continues and is expected to last until Thursday.