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Cops probe hospital overdoses; MANSLAUGHTER CHARGES POSSIBLE AFTER CANCER DUO GIVEN FIVE TIMES NORMAL DOES.

Byline: BY ALISON DAYANI

BUNGLING Midland hospital bosses and medics could face manslaughter charges in connection with the fatal overdose of two cancer patients.

Cops from the Major Crime Review Team have been gathering evidence on the deaths of father-of-three Paul Richards and Baljit Singh Sunner, who were both wrongly given FIVE times the dose of a toxic side-effect drug.

Files on a junior doctor and two nurses are being passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, where the men died within hours of each other, could also be targeted because of failings and health and safety issues.

IT consultant Mr Richards, 35, of Signal Hayes Road, Sutton Coldfield, and 36 year-old leukaemia victim Mr Sunner, of Station Road, Stechford, were recovering on Oncology Ward 19 when they died in July 2007.

Detective Chief Inspector Glenn Moss, leading the inquiry for West Midlands Police, said: "We were invited by Birmingham coroner Aidan Cotter to hear evidence at the inquest, and an inquiry into the deaths of two patients is ongoing. We are working with the CPS and cannot go into detail about exact charges."

An inquest into their deaths last month ruled that neglect contributed to both deaths.

New junior doctor Dr Kiran Tawana prescribed Amphotericin after referring to an internet version of a medicines manual. Nurses Vongai Gondo and Catherine Kunasta who made up the prescription, exercised their right to refuse to answer questions at the inquest.

A jury found there were gross failures by medical staff to seek clarification on the anti-fungal drug while Heart of England Foundation Trust, which runs Heartlands, had failed to provide adequate rules for staff on the dangerous toxin.

Phil Barnes, from law firm Anthony Collins, representing the families, said: "Police got in touch, saying they had been keeping close tabs on this case and were now assessing what charges could be brought against a doctor, two nurses and the hospital trust.

"A prosecution could range from manslaughter or gross negligence, to health and safety breaches."

Mr Richards' widow, Lisa Richards-Everton, said: "I don't want Paul to have been taken away from me and nothing done about it. I don't want other families to ever have to suffer what me and my children have been through.

"The police haven't got back to me yet but I am hopeful. There needs to be a proper investigation. There has only been in internal Trust one so far and that doesn't seem fair.

"Never in a million years did I imagine something like this could happen, I naturally trusted the medics and thought Paul would be back home with me and the children in days.

"People think you are OK, but I am just putting a brave face on it. I have days when I break down and think I can't go on. I had a supportive husband helping me bring up the kids for 20 years. Now I am bringing them up on my own and he's not here to see those special moments.

"What hurts the most is that his death could so easily have been avoided."

Lisa has set up a petition to force Prime Minister Gordon Brown to make an urgent review of prescribing high risk drugs Across The NHS.

Confusion over drug Amphotericin was created because the original "conventional" form, branded as Fungizone, has a dose of about 1mg per kg of a patient's weight, but modern forms, branded as Ambizone and Abelcet, have dosages of 3mg and 5mg per kg.

Lisa Dunn, director of Heartlands Hospital, said: "This drug has been removed from wards.

"We have not had any contact from the police about any action on these deaths."

CAPTION(S):

Paul and Lisa Richards on their wedding day with Ben and Mia; Suffering - Lisa now
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 22, 2009
Words:628
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