21 July 2011
James Bell: saline serial killer on the loose
A very worrying medical story is currently bubbling under the news. Ordinarily this story would be a front page story but the media are focussed on other matters for the time being.
The deaths of Tracey Arden, 44, George Keep, 84, and Arnold Lancaster, 71, at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Greater Manchester are being linked to saline solution being contaminated with insulin.
Insulin was found in a batch of 36 saline doses in a storeroom close to Ward A1 of the hospital.
Police have spoken to a large number of witnesses and the killer is "believed to still be on site", suggesting that a patient, a visitor or a member of staff could be responsible.
Insulin was of course used by Beverley Allit at Grantham hospital to kill and injure patients.
Allitt suffered from the personality disorder Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, killed four children and injured nine others between 1991 and 1993.
She is serving 13 life sentences, and is being held at the top-security prison hospital Rampton in Nottinghamshire.
Substantial legal claims were brought by the victims and their families.
Solicitors were unable to use the leading case of Lister and Others (AP) v Hesley Hall Limited (2001)link - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200001/ldjudgmt/jd010503/lister-1.htm
as Allit's cases were generally settled in the 1990s, prior to Lister being decided.
The case of Lister gives authority to the argument that the criminal actions of a member of staff (i.e. injecting insulin into saline drips) are legally the responsibility of the NHS trust that employs that member of staff.
The House of Lords in Lister said that employers of employees who committed criminal acts could vicariously liable for the actions of their employee.
Allit managed to successfully conceal her actions for 2 years.
I do hope this person is caught quickly and a proper investigation is undertaken to establish how many people have been injured by the perpetrator.James Bell is a Partner in the Russell Jones & Walker clinical negligence team. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email email@example.com and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.