21 May 2015
Stepping Hill Nurse Guilty of Poisoning Patients Sentenced to 35 Years
Nurse Victorino Chua has been convicted of murdering two patients and poisoning 20 others at Manchester Crown Court.
Victorino Chua harmed his victims by injecting insulin into saline bags and ampoules and leaving them for unwitting colleagues to administer to patients on two acute wards at Stepping Hill Hospital. It is also believed that in some cases he administered the insulin himself.
Suspicions first arose during the weekend of 11-12 July, 2011, when five patients on the male ward A1 suffered sudden and unexpected hypoglycaemic attacks, a naturally rare event. All five patients suffered classic symptoms of insulin overdose. Two people died and a third was left with a permanent brain injury. It subsequently emerged that many patients had also been poisoned on the female ward A3 including one patient who died as a direct result on 7 July, 2011.
It was later found that a number of saline bags had been tampered with and insulin was discovered in the solutions. The police were contacted and a review was carried out of all hypoglycaemic incidents at Stepping Hill Hospital. The hospital also had new control measures put in place. However, despite this, Victorino Chua attempted to harm patients on the night shift of 1-2 January, 2012, by altering the prescribed dosages of drugs on numerous prescription charts on ward A3. He was arrested on 5 January, 2012.
A complex police investigation ensued followed by a 3 month trial that resulted in a jury at Manchester Crown Court, convicting Mr Chua of murdering two patients and poisoning 20 others. Mr Chua has been sentenced to life with a minimum of 35 years in prison. Although this brings the criminal prosecution to an end, many civil cases continue against the Hospital Trust and Slater and Gordon represent several of those affected.
One of the victims I represent is Mr Grant Misell, 41, who suffered a serious brain injury after he was poisoned by Mr Chua. While Mr Misell is considered to be one of the survivors of the poisoning at Stepping Hill, the incident resulted in serious brain damage from which he may never recover. He now suffers from memory loss, struggles to concentrate or make decisions, and he still sometimes slurs when speaking. This has affected his confidence and it has been recommended that he has treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr Misell had worked hard for many years as a corporate treasurer before the incident. However, he no longer possesses the mental ability to work in this capacity and his quality of life is greatly diminished as he is now, financially, extremely vulnerable. Not only has this affected Mr Misell but it has also been a deeply distressing ordeal for his family who at one point were told to prepare for the worst and thought they might lose him for good. They have been and continue to be beside him every step of the way in his lengthy rehabilitation and I hope the verdict will give them all some closure and enable them to focus on the future.
I also represent Mrs Daphne Harlow, 90, who suffered a hypoglycemic attack after being admitted to hospital for a fall. She was in hospital for over a month following the poisoning on 12 July 2011 and her recovery took almost 18 months. Her daughter, Mrs Sue Haines, has said that her mother “became a different person after the incident.” She said that before the admission to Stepping Hill, her mum “was always a very active and sociable person. When she came back it seemed like she had almost lost the ability to think about what she was doing.” “She wasn’t as mobile, didn’t enjoy the same things and was a very different person to the one who sprained her ankle.”
Every hospital has a duty of care towards its patients, yet instead these people were failed in the place where they should have felt most safe. It is our view that if proper systems and safeguards were in place then these tragedies would never have happened.
Therefore, although the criminal aspect of this case has come to an end, we will continue to work for the victims and their families through the civil legal process to secure compensation to help them deal with the lasting effects of these horrific poisonings.
Stephen Jones is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
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