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Jury Returns Manslaughter Decision in Chemotherapy Death

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: chemotherapy, manslaughter, health news

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(NaturalNews) An inquest jury has concluded that a British doctor who prescribed a lethal dose of chemotherapy drugs to one of his patients is guilty of "manslaughter by gross neglect."

In March 2006, Dr. Jacqueline James prescribed four 60-milligram doses of the chemotherapy drug idarubicin to Anna McKenna, who suffered from a bone marrow cancer in her spine. The proper dose was actually a total of 60 milligrams spread out over four sessions.

Even though McKenna had been given two years to live and could have survived even longer with treatment, the quadruple dose of chemotherapy drugs killed nearly all her white blood cells, devastating her immune system. Suffering from complications including kidney failure and fever, McKenna died three weeks after receiving the first chemotherapy dose.

"We believe the contributing factors relating to her death were due to serious failures," the jury concluded.

"The family of Mrs. McKenna have been absolutely devastated by her sudden and unnecessary death," a family spokesperson said in reaction to the decision. "They feel extremely angry, not only that such a serious mistake was made in her prescription, but also that this was not found by the pharmacist who was supposed to act as a safety net for the patient."

Investigators have been unable to identify the pharmacist who issued the drugs to McKenna, because the relevant paperwork has vanished.

Under the medical systems of England and Wales, inquests must be held to investigate any sudden death. Although the jury concluded that James was responsible for manslaughter, the BBC has predicted that no criminal charges will be filed.

The North Bristol NHS Trust, the hospital where the error occurred, said it has introduced "robust measures" for improved prescription screening.

"North Bristol NHS Trust would like to take this opportunity to repeat its sincere apologies and condolences to Mrs. McKenna's family and friends," medical director Chris Burton said following the verdict.

Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk.
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