Indo-British Doctor ‘Prescribes’ Drug Overdose While Surfing Net

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LONDON – A British court is expected to pronounce on whether an Indian doctor was surfing the Internet for cricket statistics before and after he mistakenly prescribed deadly drug overdoses for two elderly patients.

Leeds Crown Court has heard how 37-year-old Dr Rajendra Kokkarne was checking for cricket results, as well as attending to personal banking and reading emails when he prescribed 10 times the normal dose of pain relief drug morphine sulphate back in 2008.

His patients, 78-year-old Beryl Barber and 86-year-old Eric Watson were being looked after at a care home and both were Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers. Barber also had painful ulcers on her foot, while Watson also had a urinary infection and mouth ulcers. Both died from morphine poisoning within three days. The jury has been told that the drug was inappropriate for their circumstances.

Kokkarne, who denies two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence, has told the police in a prepared statement that he intended to prescribe a lower dose and was unaware that he had made an error.

Prosecutor Robert Smith QC told the court that records showed the doctor had not looked at the patients’ records and was surfing the internet on the computer at his medical practice.

Analysis of those records, according at the Victoria Medical Centre in the town of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, according to Smith, show that Kokkarne was using the computer to access cricket results from India, as well as to access news, emails and personal banking details.

“The evidence shows that in between dealing with patients, Kokkarne had been watching sport and engaging in emails and other searches and other contacts using the practice computer.”

Smith added that Kokkarne failed to make a clinical assessment of each patient and further did not follow guidelines for administering relief to elderly patients. He added that the nurse who administered the drugs and the chemist who dispensed them did not question the accuracy of the prescription. “Criticism can properly be leveled at all of them”, Smith said.

“The prosecution recognised Kokkarne was not alone in making mistakes but they submit the primary responsibility lay with him in his position as a medical practitioner, with detailed and specialist knowledge of the effect of such drugs on patients of this age and who no established tolerance to the drug.”

Relatives of both the patients have told how shocked they were when they visited them in early February 2008. Barber’s daughter, Claire Gill, said about her mother in a statement to the court: “There was a dramatic difference in her facial appearance. Her face was drawn, her eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow.”

Watson’s step daughter, Sandra Hooley, said in her statement: “I could see what looked like a little shrunken head with his mouth wide open and his eyes slammed shut. A nurse said he had been given some morphine the day before.”