Parents urge tighter curbs on online diet pills after 21-year-old woman's death

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The parents of a young woman who died after taking online diet pills packed with a toxic chemical are calling for tighter controls on its supply.

Bethany Shipsey, a vegan and an animal rescue and welfare advocate, was 21 when she took the tablets containing the industrial substance DNP in February this year.

Her parents, Carole and Doug Shipsey, have spoken of their shock at how easily available the illegal fat-burning pills were online.

The couple are now urging parents of other children concerned about their weight to "take it seriously" and seek the right support and advice .

Mrs Shipsey said her daughter died in hospital about five hours after taking the pills at their home in Worcester.

She said: "Bethany had taken some pills and contacted somebody on Facebook, who alerted the emergency services.

"She went into hospital within an hour of taking the pills.

"She was in the A&E department, and it was about three-and-a-half to four hours before she had a cardiac arrest.

"They attempted to resuscitate her but it wasn't successful and she died that night."

Miss Shipsey - also known as Beth - was having ongoing treatment for mental health issues, linked to trauma from when she was raped by a previous partner.

Although slim, she developed an eating disorder and had voiced concerns about her weight to her parents and mental health professionals.

Mrs Shipsey said she and her husband had been "horrified" to discover after their daughter's death how people had encouraged her on social media to try the pills to lose weight.

Her daughter was also taking daily laxatives and metabolic boosters.

Mrs Shipsey said: "It all just reinforced Bethany's negativity around her own body image and was a tool to encourage her to continue on that path of self-destruction."

Mr Shipsey said that although the pills were illegal, "unscrupulous" dealers were still supplying them.

He has called for tighter controls, including licensing of the DNP (2,4-Dinitrophenol) chemical itself, to make it tougher to get hold of.

"If there were some licensing controls on the substance itself at least it would restrict the ability of these unscrupulous people to obtain this material who put this into capsules and sell on the internet," he said.

"If the chemical were licensed you'd have to apply for a licence to produce it, sell it, handle it, and for someone to buy and use it."

Mrs Shipsey, a nurse for 39 years, also said it was "shocking" how little awareness there appeared to be among staff at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital's A&E department as to the effects of DNP, which has no antidote.

The trust which manages the hospital has internally reviewed Miss Shipsey's case, and shared the results with her family, but said it cannot comment further ahead of an inquest in January 2018.

Mrs Shipsey said: "It's easy, when associated with young people, to dismiss any concerns the young person may have about their weight.

"I think too many people have a perception that eating disorders are only people who are underweight or overweight; it's not about BMI, but it's about their relationship with food.

"I think the answer is listening and getting support with a recognised group, like www.b-eat.co.uk."

A Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust spokesman said: "We have undertaken a full internal review of this case.

"The results of this have been shared with the family and we have since met with them to answer their questions.

"The trust cannot comment any further until after the coroner's inquest."