Prison terms upheld in fatal dose case

Previous ruling overturned as pharmacist and two nurses found liable for tragic death

The Nursing Council of the Valencia Region (Cecova) on Monday expressed its "absolute" respect for a court decision to uphold prison terms issued to three healthcare workers for administering a fatal excessive dose of chemotherapy, but also defended the "professionalism and high qualifications" of the sector as a whole.

Cecova's statement came a day after the Valencia regional High Court upheld convictions against a pharmacist and two nurses for administering a dose of 10 times the indicated amount to a 32-year-old patient with pancreatic cancer who died a few days later. The pharmacist was sentenced to a year and two months and the nurses a year each.

Cecova expressed its "deep regret" over the "tragic outcome" of the incident, which occurred in 2005 at the Hospital Clínico Universitario de Valencia. It also lamented the "strong impact that it could have on the nursing profession and other professionals in the sector as a whole. It must not and should not be extended to the whole nursing collective, whose professional practice is backed by years of training, hours of practical formation and a professional bearing recognized inside and outside our borders."

Nine times the dose

The fatal events unfolded on April 9, 2005 when a tumor was detected in the patient's pancreas, which an operation the following month failed to extract. Subsequently, he was referred to the Hospital Clínico to undergo a course of chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor for further surgery. It was decided that two drugs would be administered, one of high toxicity, in six-week cycles. The first two rounds were performed with no ill-effects on the patient but before the third the pharmacist made an error on his preparation sheet and indicated nine vials should be administered instead of one.

When the error was realized, the patient was admitted to hospital with symptoms of vomiting and fever, and a kidney problem. Three days later he suffered a digestive hemorrhage and later died.

The court process began in 2009 with the indictment of the three healthcare professionals. Although they were cleared by a lower court of gross negligence resulting in injury as it ruled the dose did not have a direct impact on the death of the patient, the decision was overturned by the regional High Court.

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