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SEDATIVES PERIL; Drug errors are killing 200 a year.

Byline: SHARON COLLINS Health Correspondent

TWO hundred hospital patients are dying every year while under sedation because doctors are not properly trained.

People sedated are FORTY TIMES times more likely to die than patients who are knocked out with a general anaesthetic.

One victim was Debbie Wiles, 31, who died when she went into hospital for a "routine" procedure to remove gallstones. Her husband Peter says it was after she was given the sedative midazolam.

Since the mother-of-two's death in April 1998, Mr Wiles, 38, from Blackpool, has launched a pounds 300,000 legal action against the Victoria Hospital, Blackpool, NHS Trust and started a campaign about the dangers of the drug being used by untrained doctors.

A nurse said Debbie had died after choking on her own vomit during the procedure and this is what appeared on the interim death certificate. But the final one said she suffered an adverse reaction to a sedative, midazolam.

Of one million people a year who are sedated, around 200 die from large overdoses of sedatives and painkillers.

Consultant surgeon Mr Rory McCloy said: "This is extra- ordinary. I don't know of any other field of medicine where doctors will give somebody two times, four times, eight times, even 10 times the recommended dose."

Patients are told that sedation - in which they stay awake enough to respond - is simple and safe. But it is being carried out by doctors who receive no training.

Compulsory training will be one recommendation in a report on the dangers of sedatives to be published next month by a working party from the UK Academy of Royal Colleges. Midazolam is used in most procedures for which the patient needs to be awake, such as investigations that need a tube or endoscope - a flexible camera - inserted down the throat.

Advice from the Royal College of Surgeons and the manufacturers says that if the drug is given with a painkiller, the painkiller should be given first in a reduced dose, then the sedative, also in a smaller dose.

Mr McCloy, of Manchester Royal Infirmary, said: "It would take two days for doctors to learn all there is to know about how to sedate a patient."

Mr McCloy, who wrote the Royal College of Surgeons' guidelines on sedation for non-anaesthetists, is highlighting the issue on tomorrow's BBC1 Watchdog Healthcheck.

Prof Tony Wildsmith, chairman of the working party and an anaesthetist at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, said: "Training has to be made compulsory. Making it available on a voluntary basis in the past has not worked."


SEDATIVE: Midazolam; TRAGIC: Debbie and daughter
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 10, 2001
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