Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK


Weeping doctor apologises to parents

The GMC continues to hear evidence

The doctor who gave a massive overdose to a seven-day-old baby wept as he apologised to her bereaved parents.

The BBC's Sophie Dekker reports from the GMC
Louise Wood died after Dr Vivian Michel gave her 100 times the safe amount of morphine at Rotherham District General Hospital in 1995.

The General Medical Council, the regulatory body for doctors, is considering whether Dr Michel is guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Dr Michel's case is being heard along with that of consultant paediatrician Dr Jean Shorland.

They were both involved in the care of Louise, but failed to mention the morphine overdose on her death certificate.

'Coroner should have been told'

In a faltering voice, Dr Michel apologised to Louise's parents on Wednesday for not ensuring the coroner was informed of the death.

Dr Michel fought back tears as he told the hearing: "I felt that the medical accident in itself was sufficient cause for reporting this death to the coroner and there was an ethical imperative for me to do that.

"I have regretted not pushing this with Dr Shorland because this has caused more distress for the parents. I apologise for that."

He denied trying to cover up the "medical error".

Recalling the incident, he said: 'It became apparent very quickly within 30 seconds of the second injection that there had been a dramatic change in the baby's condition.

"She became very still. Her lips were very blue and she was in serious trouble. I noticed the change in her heart rate and blood pressure.

"I was shocked and initially upset. I did not know what was going on.

"It seemed to me there must be a problem with the injection. It happened so quickly."

Error in calculations

Junior doctor Hilary Evans prepared the dose following an error in her calculations.

She was found not guilty on Tuesday of serious professional misconduct.

At the time of the incident, Dr Michel said he had been "completely focused" on trying to help Louise remain stable.

The baby, who had been born prematurely, had lung problems.

"It may have been an error, but I trusted my colleagues to draw up the morphine correctly," he said.

"I'm not trying to blame other people.

"I believe that everybody tried to work to do the very best they could for Louise. I certainly was trying to do that.

"It's just that I feel very let down by this event and very upset."

Senior doctor took charge

Dr Michel said the incident should have been reported to the coroner, but Dr Shorland instructed him to stop as he made a telephone call.

She had arrived at the scene more than half-an-hour after the overdose and after resuscitation had started.

Once Dr Shorland was on the scene, "she was in charge", Dr Michel said.

He told the hearing: "I have a responsibility in this situation simply because I was the most experienced doctor there at the time and I'm implicated in the events."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

21 Apr 99 | Health
Doctor thought overdose was safe

20 Apr 99 | Health
Overdose doctor cleared

20 Apr 99 | Health
Nurse questioned overdose doctor's judgement

19 Apr 99 | Health
Doctors accused over baby overdose

Internet Links

General Medical Council

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99