Pubdate: Wed, 15 Jul 2015
Source: Daily Record (UK)
Copyright: 2015 Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd.
Author: Kelly-Ann Mills


Martha Fernback was just 15 when she took the fatal dose of ecstasy 
that was 91 per cent pure, and her mum Anne-Marie Cockburn believes, 
had regulations been in place, she might still be alive

On a sunny day two years ago Anne-Marie Cockburn's phone rang.

At the end of the line was a stranger who told her that her 
15-year-old daughter was gravely ill and and they were trying to save her life.

Martha had swallowed half a gram of white powder.

It emerged later that before taking the powder Martha had looked 
online for ways to take drugs safely.

Her Internet history revealed she had carefully researched the risks 
and opted to buy a relatively expensive version of the drug ecstasy, 
perhaps assuming the better quality it was, the safer it would be.

The powder she took, bought for UKP40 from a dealer, was 91per cent pure MDMA.

Martha didn't survive and within two hours of taking it she was dead.

She was Anne-Marie's only child.

Most parents would have lashed out blaming their child, her friends, 
or the dealer or the manufacturer.

The response of her mother, Anne-Marie, 43, has been unusual  and 
instead of blaming she began to look into the reasons her daughter died.

Her conclusions have been that far from chasing drug use underground 
by keeping them illegal were the trade were open and regulated her 
daughter might still be alive.

She said: "I was blissfully ignorant about the world of drugs before 
Martha died.

"Afterwards I looked at her Internet history and found that she had 
been researching ways to take drugs safely.

"I've said that "Martha wanted to get high, she didn't want to die".

All parents would prefer one of those options to the other. And while 
no one wants drugs being sold to children, if Martha had got hold of 
legally regulated drugs meant for adults, labelled with health 
warnings and dosage instructions, she would not have gone on to take 
5-10 times the safe dose.

"Surely it would be better than criminals running it? It's about 
safety. At the moment young people are buying drugs with a blank label.

"You're not going to stop young people taking risks, experimenting. 
It's about harm reduction. You want to live in a safe society? This 
is about safety.

"In some ways I woke up once Martha was gone. Although it's so 
painful, I feel so alive, I feel everything and I have all this time 
and energy that I had devoted to Martha that I can now dedicate to 
changing things for the better."

Anne Marie was close to her daughter and the pair had been due to go 
away with her daughter the weekend after she died.

Shortly before 12.45pm on July 20, 2013, Anne-Marie texted her to 
tell her the name of the hotel she'd booked in Bristol for the 
following weekend. Martha responded simply: "Cute."

It was the last time she heard from her instead she next saw her in 
hospital as doctors battled to save her.

Anne-Marie said: "Ever since she died I've looked for answers.

"I've spoken to experts and read books and blogs and spoken to other 
bereaved parents to see what we can do about this.

"Prohibition did not keep Martha safe."

She has thrown her support behind Anyone's Child a campaign by 
families of drug victims for safer drug control which pushes for 
legal regulation whereby ingredients would be listed and dosage 
information given.

Writing in support of the campaign she said: "When I hear the news 
that a young person has died and yet another family has joined the 
bereaved parents' club, I feel helpless as I wonder how many more 
need to die before someone in government will actually do something about it?

"As I stand by my child's grave, what more evidence do I need that 
things must change? Isn't this loss of precious lives an indicator of 
a law that is past its sell-by date and in need of urgent reform?

"A good start would be to conduct the very first proper review of our 
drug laws in over 40 years and to consider alternative approaches. 
But the people in power turn away from it.

"They play an amazing game of "Let's pretend". Well there's no way 
for me to hide - every day I wake up, the stark reality of Martha's 
absence hits me once again.

"As I write this, I have been without my girl for 643 days. It sounds 
like a lot, doesn't it? But in the aftermath, time becomes distorted 
and meaningless. So to represent my beloved Martha, it is my quest to 
align myself with those who can help progress this conversation.

"That is why I'm involved with the Anyone's Child project. This 
unique chorus of voices cannot be ignored; there is nowhere to hide 
from our harrowing stories.

"But with every step this project takes in pursuit of political 
change, one more set of footprints on this earth will hopefully be 
saved from being extinguished."

Anne-Marie says Martha will never be forgotten by anybody who met her 
and recalls how the teenager would walk her three-legged rabbit, 
Bluebell, around the local streets.

She will never forget their trips away adding: "I'm so grateful that 
we saw so many places, went on so many trips.

"When I was 15 I'd only been to Germany: but Martha had been to 
America and Croatia, France and Greece, Ireland and Italy, Spain and Singapore.

"She rode on a camel in Egypt, went on an elephant in Bali, 
snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef.

"She lived for 5,472 days, seven hours and 36 minutes, and her life 
was full of adventure  and I'm so happy I shared so many of those 
adventures with her.

"I want to prevent another parent feeling another loss like mine and 
the world losing another Martha."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom