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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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West Cumbrian overdose probe GP struck off

A DOCTOR who injected two patients with six times the correct dose of painkiller – killing one of them – has been struck off the medical register.

Dr. Michael Stevenson
Dr. Michael Stevenson

Dr Michael Stevenson, 57, was spared jail when he admitted the manslaughter of grandmother Marjorie Wright, in January 2005.

The family GP, from Bootle, accidentally gave Mrs Wright, 58, a 30mg dose of diamorphine instead of 5mg, failed to monitor her reaction to the drug and left to do another call. She was found dead at her home in Workington when police broke in shortly after Dr Stevenson’s visit.

On his next visit for the CueDoc out-of-hours GP service, he administered an identical overdose to a 59-year-old builder who suffered an immediate respiratory arrest. The builder survived after paramedics were swiftly called and gave him a vital antidote.

On Monday, a General Medical Fitness to Practise panel ruled Dr Stevenson’s conduct over both patients “demonstrated a disregard for patient safety” and struck him off the register.

Dr Stevenson was handed a 15-month jail term, suspended for two years, at Preston Crown Court in April 2007.

The court was told the senior partner at the Seascale Practice was forced to take a sabbatical by colleagues over concerns about his workaholic nature.

He had suffered from depression since childhood and tried to bury his mental illness through overwork.

The GMC panel, sitting in Manchester, struck the doctor off the register following a three week hearing.

The panel said it was “disturbed” by the evidence that Dr Stevenson continued to undertake a heavy workload at the time despite concerns for his wellbeing.

Panel chairman Professor Ken Hobbs said: “He has failed to demonstrate any insight into his attitude in this respect, nor did he acknowledge the risk which such an excessive workload posed to patient safety.

“The panel considers that Dr Stevenson’s conduct demonstrates a continuing risk to patients and regards it to be fundamentally incompatible with his continuing to be a registered medical practitioner.”

The panel noted there was no evidence of any complaint about or criticism of Dr Stevenson over the previous 20 years of his career.

Prof Hobbs said: “Nonetheless, Dr Stevenson’s actions in relation to Mrs Wright and Mr E (the builder), to both of whom he recklessly administered potentially lethal doses of diamorphine, demonstrated a disregard for patient safety.

“His misconduct caused Mr E to suffer a respiratory collapse and sadly brought about the death of Mrs Wright.

“He was irresponsible in his lack of aftercare of Mrs Wright, having failed to observe her for long enough to monitor adequately her reaction to the drug.”

He concluded: “In the circumstances, the panel does not consider that a period of suspension would be proportionate to address the serious nature of the misconduct in this case nor be sufficient to protect the public interest.”

Dr Stevenson initially faced allegations in relation to four patients he treated with painkilling drugs while working for Cuedoc.

His manslaughter conviction was considered by the panel after they determined the facts of the other cases.

The GP was called to the home of Mrs Wright on January 30, 2005 after she complained of a migraine.

The panel said Dr Stevenson had at least two opportunities to check the dose he was about to administer to her – both the box and vial of diamorphine which were clearly marked 30mg.

Christina Lambert QC, representing the doctor, said he was working “exceptionally hard” at the time and was “horrified by the events in relation to Mrs Wright, went to the police of his own accord and entered a guilty plea to the charge of manslaughter”.

She said that in the context of events he was an “otherwise caring and compassionate medical practitioner”.

Giving evidence, Dr Stevenson admitted he was irresponsible in mistakenly giving 30mg of diamorphine hydrochloride to Mr E, rather than the intended 5mg.

The builder called CueDoc when he suffered a slipped disc and could not get off the toilet because of severe back pain.

Prof Hobbs said the panel considered Dr Stevenson’s treatment of Mr E was “grossly negligent”.

“It is extremely concerned that despite having at least two opportunities to check the dose he was about to administer, and despite such caution being expected of a competent general practitioner, he proceeded recklessly to administer to Mr E a potentially fatal dose,” he said.

“This error is compounded by the fact that, following Dr Stevenson’s fatal visit to Mrs Wright, it was the second such error within an hour.”

Dr Stevenson denied his fitness to practise was impaired in relation to Mrs Wright and Mr E, and his treatment of three other patients.

The panel ruled allegations that he overdosed two terminally ill men with potentially fatal levels of drugs were not proven.

It also found the speed of injection he gave to a woman suffering from severe abdominal pain was appropriate and withdrew a charge that he did not stay with her long enough to monitor her condition.

In September 2007, lawyers for the GMC told a High Court hearing, which extended his interim suspension from practice, that inquiries had been launched in to up to 14 possible excessive dose cases involving Dr Stevenson.

The court heard Cumbria Police investigated those allegations but no criminal charges would be brought.

When approached by the Evening Mail, Dr Stevenson said he did not wish to comment on the case.

Seascale Medical Centre manager Jane Blinco did not wish to comment.

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