Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 19:03 UK

Drug overdose 'was manslaughter'

Anna McKenna
Mrs McKenna died on 18 April 2006 after developing complications

A jury has returned an inquest verdict of "manslaughter by gross neglect" on a woman killed by a chemotherapy dose four times too high.

Anna McKenna, 56, from Knowle West in Bristol, was being treated for multiple myeloma - a cancer of the marrow in the bone of the spine - in 2006.

Dr Jacqueline James, from Frenchay Hospital, prescribed quadruple the correct drug doses over four sessions.

Mrs McKenna was unable to fight infection, the inquest heard.

'Extremely angry'

She died four weeks later on 18 April 2006, some three weeks after her first chemotherapy session when she developed complications, including fever and renal failure.

After the verdict a family spokeswoman said: "The family of Mrs McKenna have been absolutely devastated by her sudden and unnecessary death.

"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."

The pharmacist who should have double-checked the dose was never identified.

The paperwork relating to Mrs McKenna's prescription had disappeared.

Dr James told the hearing she was "very sorry" for the error before the mother-of-five's death.

Dr Jacqueline James
Jacqueline James prescribed four times too much Idarubicin

A previous Avon and Somerset police investigation could not identify the pharmacist, and no charges were brought.

After a five day inquest at Bristol Coroner's Court in Flax Bourton, the jury returned their verdict.

They added: "We believe the contributing factors relating to her death were due to serious failures."

Mrs McKenna had been given about two years to live and treatment could have prolonged her life, the inquest was told.

North Bristol NHS Trust has now introduced several "robust measures" to tighten up prescription screening practices, including having two pharmacists looking at every one.

Sincere apologies

Although a manslaughter verdict was returned, criminal proceedings are understood to be unlikely.

Medical Director of North Bristol NHS Trust, Dr Chris Burton, said: "North Bristol NHS Trust would like to take this opportunity to repeat its sincere apologies and condolences to Mrs McKenna's family and friends.

"The Trust has co-operated fully with external investigations into the circumstances surrounding Mrs McKenna's death.

"Patient safety is our priority and following Mrs McKenna's death, we made immediate and significant changes to our procedures around prescribing and issuing Idarubicin."



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