Relatives win 10 year battle to prove NHS culture of euthanasia

Three patients who died at a hospital in Hampshire in the late 1990s were given inappropriate medication, an inquest jury has ruled.

The panel of five women and three men also found that two patients were given the correct medication but in doses which contributed to their deaths.

The patients’ families are now calling for a criminal investigation.

Some of the relatives had long believed morphine was being over-prescribed.

Police carried out investigations into 92 patients’ treatment at the hospital, but no prosecutions were brought.

The jury at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court decided that in the cases of Robert Wilson, 74, Geoffrey Packman, 66, and Elsie Devine, 88, the use of painkillers was inappropriate for their condition.

Arthur Cunningham, 79, and Elsie Lavender, 83, were prescribed medication appropriate for their condition but in doses which contributed to their deaths, jurors found.

In the cases of Leslie Pittock, Helena Service, Ruby Lake, Enid Spurgin and Sheila Gregory, the jury decided that the prescription of painkillers had not contributed to their deaths.

The jury heard evidence from members of the patients’ families, medical experts and staff at the hospital, including Dr Jane Barton.

She was investigated by police in connection with deaths at the hospital but she was not charged with any offence.

She said in a statement: “I can say that I have always acted with care, concern and compassion towards my patients.

“I am pleased the jury recognised that in all of these cases, drugs were only given for therapeutic purposes.”

In a statement after the verdicts, the families said: “This has been a 10 year emotional journey for the families, not just those families directly involved in the inquest but also the relatives of the 92 victims investigated by the police who are also still waiting for answers.

“We did not expect this inquest to be transparent, honest or fair and our expectations have been met in full.”

“Extreme drug overdoses were given without justification or logic that rendered our families comatose in a matter of hours and dead soon after, giving relatives no warning or opportunity to speak with them.

“The families’ journeys are not over. Once we have all the evidence as denied by this coroner, we will reflect on the last few weeks and decide our next steps.”

The families also said that a fresh criminal investigation by Hampshire police was needed. But in response to their call the force has said it will not reinvestigate any of the deaths.

Meanwhile, the patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) called for a public inquiry.

AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh said: “It is now quite clear the refusal to hold a public inquiry was wrong.

“There were other deaths at Gosport which should have been looked into as well as the role played by various agencies, which may have prevented the poor practice at Gosport or it being investigated promptly and appropriately.”


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