Baby inquest hears 'mix-up' claim

13 August 2009 07:57
A coroner has adjourned an inquest on a six-week-old baby after the girl's family claimed a hospital did not keep records of drugs she had been given.Amy Smith died at University Hospital of Wales (UHW), Cardiff, in November 2007 with respiratory problems. [LNB]Her father Christopher Smith claimed at the inquest in Swansea that he saw her being given drugs on two occasions at the hospital without records taken. [LNB]Swansea Coroner Philip Rogers asked police to investigate further. [LNB]Mr Rogers pointed out that Mr Smith's claim was not mentioned during police statements taken from the baby's parents. [LNB]The hearing was told that among the drugs found in Amy's system was dihydrocodeine, which is not normally prescribed to anyone so young and can cause respiratory depression as a side-effect. [LNB] The important issue was the finding of dihydrocodeine, a drug for which there appeared to be no explanation for its appearance Home Office pathologist, Dr Rick James According to the medical notes, dihydrocodeine was not administered during the baby's two admissions to Singleton Hospital, Swansea or the two transfers to Cardiff when her condition worsened. [LNB]Mr Smith described what he saw on the ward at UHW. [LNB]He added: "One girl on the ward was being administered quite a lot of drugs. Now I'm just wondering whether something has been mixed up." [LNB]'Legal representation'[LNB]Under further questioning, Mr Smith and his pregnant wife Michelle strongly denied that their daughter could have ingested the Co-dydramol, which contains dihydrocodeine, that they had been prescribed for pain relief before her death. [LNB]Addressing Mr Smith, the coroner said: "You have raised a point which I feel we need to explore further." [LNB]He added: "I'm going to ask the police to investigate further to see whether other children were present (on the ward at the UHW) and whether they were taking dihydrocodeine." [LNB]He urged the Smiths to seek legal representation for the resumption of the inquest in case they wanted to pursue the point further. [LNB]Health visitor Gillian Davies said she had visited Amy at home in Morriston, Swansea and found her to be "well cared-for" and "thriving". [LNB]'Painkillers'[LNB]Despite this, Amy was admitted with respiratory problems to the intensive care unit of the paediatric unit at UHW from Singleton Hospital, first on 15 October and just before she died. [LNB]Mrs Smith, who has two other daughters, told the inquest Amy was flat on her back in her carrycot when she realised she was seriously ill. [LNB]When asked whether it was possible that Amy had taken any of their medication, she replied: "Absolutely not." [LNB]Mr Smith said he would have either taken the full course of painkillers or thrown the remainder in the bin. [LNB]Dr Rick James, a Home Office pathologist, said 261 microgrammes of dihydrocodeine was discovered in Amy's blood after a post mortem examination. [LNB]'Unascertained'[LNB]"The important issue was the finding of dihydrocodeine, a drug for which there appeared to be no explanation for its appearance," he said. [LNB]"I suggested that, since it was present, although no other health professional or police had raised questions, I agreed to carry out part of the examination." [LNB]When asked whether it was a drug given to babies, Dr James replied: "It is not. [LNB]"It was a drug administered to a baby in the Leonard Arthur case 20 to 30 years ago. One of the issues was that it was a drug not normally given to a baby." [LNB]Dr Arthur was acquitted in 1981 of the attempted murder of a newborn infant with Down's syndrome for whom he had prescribed dihydrocodeine. [LNB]The pathologist said he could only record the cause of death as being unascertained. [LNB]The coroner said he expected it would be several months before the inquest could resume.

Source: BBC_Sport