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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2004, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Nurse 'tried to kill patients'
Barbara Salisbury
Barbara Salisbury worked as a ward sister
A hospital nurse accused of attempting to murder four elderly patients was motivated by a drive to free up beds, a court has heard.

Barbara Salisbury overstepped the line between humane nursing and callous dispatch when she tried to hasten their deaths, Chester Crown Court was told.

The 47-year-old, from Pontybodkin, north Wales, was working as a ward sister at Leighton Hospital, Crewe, at the time of the alleged offences.

She denies attempted murder.

Prosecuting barrister Robin Spencer QC told the jury on Wednesday that Ms Salisbury was even heard urging one patient "give in, it's time to go", as she administered an overdose.

Easing the passage from life to death is one thing, deliberately accelerating death or attempting to do so is quite another.
Prosecuting barrister Robin Spencer QC

"No one would wish to see an elderly relative suffer unnecessarily as death approaches, but equally no nurse has the right actively to hasten death," he said.

"Easing the passage from life to death is one thing, deliberately accelerating death or attempting to do so is quite another.

"The prosecution case is that in respect of four elderly patients under her care at Leighton Hospital, she quite deliberately and brazenly overstepped the line between humane nursing and callous dispatch."

Mr Spencer said Ms Salisbury's actions were reported by junior nurses.

Leighton Hospital, Crewe
Ms Salisbury was suspended from duty in 2002

Ms Salisbury denies four counts of attempted murder against Reuben Thompson, 81, Frank Owen, 92, James Byrne, 76, and Frances May Taylor, 88.

The alleged offences took place between 1999 and 2001 and all the patients have since died.

The court heard Ms Salisbury allegedly tried to kill James Byrne by repeatedly pressing the booster button on the device delivering diamorphine.

The 8 ml solution of the drug should have been administered over a 24 hour period but records showed it was fully infused in less than 16 hours.

Mr Spencer said to reduce the dosage time by such an amount would have required the booster button to be pressed 76 times.

She is accused of trying to kill Reuben Thompson by removing his oxygen supply and she allegedly tried to kill Frank Owen by lying him on his back and telling another nurse: "With any luck his lungs will fill with fluid and he will die."

Not euthanasia trial

Mr Spencer said: "She was driven to free up a hospital bed but in fact there will always be another patient waiting.

"If she thought there was no hope of recovery, she didn't want to wait too long.

"If the patient could be made well enough to be discharged, she would aim for that, if not she would hasten death.

"One way or another, she wanted these patients off her ward."

Mr Spencer stressed to the jury that this was not a trial about euthanasia.

"She does not suggest these were attempts at mercy killing. The allegations, she says, are quite simply untrue."

The trial continues.

The BBC's Judith Moritz
"The prosecuting QC told the jury Ms Salisbury may have been motivated by a desire to free up beds"

Ex-nurse denies murder bids
08 Sep 03  |  Wales


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