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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2007, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Doctor 'hastened babies' deaths'
Dr Michael Munro [Pic: Cavendish Press]
The doctor denies acting improperly over the baby deaths
A doctor's administration of drugs hastened the deaths of two terminally ill babies and was "tantamount to euthanasia", an inquiry has heard.

Consultant neonatologist Michael Munro, 41, gave 23 times the normal dose of a muscle relaxant at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, medical watchdogs were told.

The General Medical Council (GMC) fitness to practise panel heard the doctor failed to record his actions.

Dr Munro denies his conduct was below standard, dishonest or inappropriate.

Dr Munro was working in the neonatal unit of Aberdeen Maternity Hospital on 5 December, 2005, when a child - known only as Baby X - was born more than three months premature.

The panel heard that the child suffered a brain haemorrhage and the decision was taken to withdraw treatment after its condition worsened.

Dr Munro does not accept it was inappropriate, contrary to guidelines or below the standard expected of a medical practitioner
Andrew Long
GMC counsel

On 20 December, the baby's breathing tube was removed and doctors began a course of morphine to ease the child's suffering.

As Baby X became weak it began to struggle to breathe. A normal consequence of treatment withdrawal, the condition is known as agonal gasping.

Dr Munro told Baby X's parents he could give the child a drug but "it was on the verge of what society finds acceptable", the hearing was told.

He then injected the child with 2,000mg of the drug which, he admits, hastened the death of Baby X.

'Death inevitable'

Colleagues raised doubts about the treatment and an investigation was launched into the doctor's actions.

Despite telling investigators he had never before administered Pancuronium, the inquiry discovered he had injected a second child with the muscle relaxant six months earlier.

Aberdeen Maternity Hospital
The babies died at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital in 2005

Outlining the case for the GMC, Andrew Long said: "Dr Munro administered a muscle relaxant drug called Pancuronium to both babies which stopped them breathing and hastened their death.

"These primary facts are admitted and indeed Dr Munro admits his conduct was outside accepted professional practice.

"But Dr Munro does not accept it was inappropriate, contrary to guidelines or below the standard expected of a medical practitioner.

"The GMC assert it was all of these things and tantamount to a form of euthanasia even though death was inevitable."

Survival possible

However, the hearing heard both sets of parents "fully supported the doctor's actions and were grateful to him".

In written testimony, one colleague, Dr Phil Booth, said Dr Munro was wrong to stop Baby X's care.

He said: "If withdrawal of care is being discussed it merited discussion with a senior colleague. I wouldn't have agreed with withdrawal or care at the time, it's possible the baby could have survived."

Prof Ian Marlow, a neonatal specialist from the University of Nottingham and Grampian NHS Trust, said the doctor acted from the "highest personal motives" but the use of the drug could not be justified.

The hearing in Manchester, which began on Thursday, continues.


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