Another “overseas trained” doctor ‘killed two patients suffering just ulcers with TEN TIMES normal dose of morphine while he surfed the internet’
A doctor prescribed deadly drug overdoses for two elderly patients while ‘preoccupied’ by surfing the internet, a court heard yesterday. Rajendra Kokkarne, 37, had been checking cricket results, looking at news, doing personal banking and reading emails on the computer at his surgery when the mistakes were made.
After taking a call from a nurse he arranged for care home patients Beryl Barber, 78, and Eric Watson, 86, to be given the powerful pain relief drug morphine sulphate.
Both pensioners were at a home for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers and had a number of health problems, including painful ulcers. But the drug was inappropriate for their circumstances and the prescription was ten times the normal dose, the jury was told. Both died from morphine poisoning within three days.
The GP lied to police by claiming he was trying to find a suitable specialist for a patient with a sleeping disorder when he prescribed the deadly doses, Leeds Crown Court heard.
Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said records showed the GP had not looked at that patient’s records and was surfing the internet on the practice computer.
Dr Kokkarne of Worksop, Nottinghamshire, denies manslaughter by gross negligence.
The court heard the GP gave police a prepared statement when interviewed about the 2008 deaths.
He stated he intended to prescribe a lower dose and was unaware he had made an error. Analysis of the records at the Victoria Medical Centre in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, revealed that before dealing with the prescriptions Dr Kokkarne was using the computer for personal banking and emails and afterwards he accessed news, cricket results from India and ‘matters of that sort,’ said Mr Smith.
He said the GP failed to carry out a clinical assessment of either patient and failed to adhere to guidelines for administering pain relief to elderly patients.
The patients were at the Charlton Centre for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care in Batley. Mr Smith said the nursing staff and pharmacist shared some responsibility. The nurses who gave one dose to Mr Watson and two to Mrs Barber did not question the prescription’s accuracy.
‘Equally the pharmacist who dispensed the drugs does not appear to have queried whether the concentration prescribed was appropriate,’ he said. ‘Criticism can properly be levelled at all of them.’
He added: ‘The prosecution recognised Dr 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 had no established tolerance to the drug.’
Relatives told the court they were ‘shocked’ at the condition of their loved ones when they visited them after they were given morphine.
Mr Watson’s stepdaughter, Sandra Hooley, said: ‘I was shocked at his appearance. 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.’
British government Minister: admit students on ‘potential’ rather than grades
This is a perfectly reasonable proposition — DEPENDING on how “potential” is assessed. High scores on an IQ test or something like the American SAT would be an excellent way of detecting potential
Bright students from poor-performing schools should be admitted to university with worse A-level results than other pupils, a minister claimed today. Academics should look beyond raw A-level grades to select pupils by their “potential” to succeed in higher education, said David Willetts, the Universities Minister.
He also suggested that rising numbers of poorly-qualified students should be given a “foundation year” – before the start of their full degree course – to enable them to catch up.
In a speech, Mr Willetts denied charges of “social engineering” but insisted a “serious sorting exercise” was needed to ensure the university admissions system was based on “genuine meritocracy”.
The comments came as the Government announced that a record total of around £900m would be spent in 2012/13 on reforms designed to boost access to university – up by £100m in just three years.
Last month, figures showed the majority of universities belonging to the elite Russell Group admitted fewer pupils from state schools and the most deprived backgrounds in 2010/11.
Amid unprecedented demand for university places, academics insisted that many bright students failed to apply or fell short of tough entry requirements.
In a speech in London, Mr Willetts called for a “renewed push to ensure that universities are broadening participation and improving access” as a pay-off for allowing institutions to charge up to £9,000 in tuition fees this year.
“What we all want to see is not social engineering – and certainly not quotas – but quite simply genuine meritocracy,” he said. “Because entry to our universities is a competitive process, with more applicants than there are places, there has to be a serious sorting exercise.”
Mr Willetts added that admissions “can be based on more than just A-level results, by looking at all the information that indicates the potential of an individual to succeed”. “The aim is that those who can perform best at any given university are selected for it,” he said.
“We now spend a lot of money trying to overcome the barriers which might stop those who are perhaps at weaker schools or in low participation neighbourhoods going to university.”
A study last year found that almost 23 per cent of universities were planning to make “lower offers” to candidates from poor backgrounds starting in 2012 – up from 18 per cent in 2011.
Addressing the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Mr Willetts said that central Government and individual universities were preparing to spend £900m in 2012/13 on programmes designed to widen access. He said a “systematic assessment” of these programmes would be carried out to discover “what works and what is less effective”.
Speaking afterwards, he backed programmes run by many Russell Group universities in which academics mentor bright pupils from poor-performing schools throughout their A-levels.
He also praised a scheme run by King’s College London that gives bright students with poor A-levels a “foundation year” to prepare them for the demands of a full-time medicine degree course.
“We know, at the end of the day, that their chances of getting a good medical degree are as good as those who turn up with three As,” he said.
Don’t ban it. Get over it!
The banning of silly Christian bus adverts reveals the contempt in which the mayor holds ordinary Londoners
Last week, Boris Johnson, the perennially silly mayor of London, announced that he would ban a planned series of posters on London buses which shouted: ‘NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!’ The message was penned by the Christian campaign group, the Core Issues Trust, which believes that homosexuality is curable through therapy and religious teaching.
It is a little bizarre that London buses have become the preferred forum for society’s culture wars. This spate of religious bus-side bickering kicked off in 2008, when the British Humanist Association (BHA) ran adverts on the side of London’s buses that read: ‘There is probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ This led the lobby group Christian Voice to report the poster to the Advertising Standards Agency on the basis that the BHA had no evidence that there was no god. Unsurprisingly the complaint went nowhere. The Core Issues Trust campaign is an implicit response to another billowing bus-poster campaign which was run by gay-rights campaign group Stonewall earlier this year. This one read: ‘SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY. GET OVER IT!’ The fact that these organisations think they can win arguments with the public simply by shouting shrill, one-line campaign slogans at us betrays their lack of faith in the public’s intelligence. In reality, people take a bit more convincing than being told to ‘stop worrying’ or ‘get over it’.
That said, the Core Issues Trust is undoubtedly a bit nutty. It reminded me of the hilarious anti-homosexual, yet overtly camp ‘True Directions’ programme in Jamie Babbit’s brilliant 1999 movie But I’m A Cheerleader, in which a suspected lesbian is dispatched to undertake 12 steps of therapeutic conversion away from the ‘unhealthy homosexual lifestyle’. Like the anti-gay ‘boot camp’ in the movie, the Core Issues Trust says in its vision statement that it establishes networks with local churches to assist with ‘sexually damaged and wounded adults’ through engagement with ‘professionally trained individuals’ and ‘expertise’ to bring Christians back from the homosexual brink. It hosted a conference in January entitled, ‘The Leper Among Us: Homosexuality and the Life of the Church’. While this was seized on by the Guardian as evidence of the organisation’s overt bigotry, the conference was in fact designed to ‘lift the stigma’ around homosexuality in the church so that ‘homosexuals are no longer treated like lepers’. This was more an example of the group’s guitar-jangling therapeutic outlook than its hateful homophobia.
Yet while the Core Issues Trust is a bit weird, the more offensive and dangerous idea that emerged in the course of the discussion around the posters was the elite’s belief that this act of censorship was justifiable in the name of ‘tolerance’. Following Johnson’s decision, ‘tolerance’ became the virtue of the hour. Johnson himself said that ‘London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance’. Ken Livingstone said the adverts were ‘damaging for anyone who believes that London is the greatest city in the world because of its tolerance’. A spokesperson for Transport for London said ‘we do not believe that these specific ads are consistent with TfL’s commitment to a tolerant and inclusive London’.
Appealing to tolerance to justify the ban shows how debased the elite’s understanding of this important liberal virtue has become. A truly tolerant society is one in which people are free to make up their own minds about challenging ideas. John Stuart Mill recognised the importance of tolerance in his essay On Liberty. He argued that ‘though the silenced opinion be an error… it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied’. In other words, it is only through the free engagement with ideas that people arrive at sure convictions. No matter how often politicians attempt to defer to ‘tolerance’, Livingstone’s suggestion that people may be damaged through their exposure to this ‘collision of adverse opinions’ shows that the elite impulse driving the ban is anything but tolerant. In fact, it appears that Johnson et al have in fact become ‘intolerant of tolerance’ – they would much rather make up our minds for us.
This bastardisation of tolerance is particularly worrying at a time when the law is frequently used to restrict religious expression. The provisions of the Equalities Act 2010 have allowed for Christians to be sued for expressing their religious belief. The most famous example is the case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, two Christians who were forced to pay £3,600 to two homosexuals for refusing them entry to the bed and breakfast which they ran from their home. In Scotland, performing a religious gesture at, or on the way to, a football match could now land you with a criminal conviction under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act (Scotland) Act 2012. There are numerous cases of religious preachers being prosecuted for harassment where their views have strayed outside what the police deem to be acceptable. Taken on its own, banning a silly poster may seem trifling. It is more worrying at a time when legal interference with religious belief is becoming routine.
True tolerance demands robust engagement with challenging ideas. It requires us, as thinking people, to be sure enough in our own arguments that we are able to win intellectual battles with our opponents, rather than feeling it necessary to silence them. The Core Issues Trust may be wacky, objectionable and even wrong. But if we want a truly tolerant society, we should ignore the bastardised conception of tolerance emerging from our confused mayoral candidates, and remember the words of Mill: ‘Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.’